Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Stalemate

Echoes plummeting from the peaks.
Dancing. Marching. Haunting streets 

With dark intentions, Night steals over Day
Cloaking light in His own way.
Transformed by the death of Dawn,
The Queen is dead, killed by the Pawn.

Voices murmuring amid the dark.
Raindropped statues in the park. 

And though the mystery doth prevail,
The path of morn' awaits to sail.
While moonlight lingers carefree,
Ringing chimes in the upper belfry.

Waves ebbing, breakers roll.
Crashing white. Overwhelming seamen's souls.

The wrath of Night cannot sleep,
Like coral castles in the deep.
The hush is loud, the tone is rough.
Crying sadly, "It is enough."

Leaves twisting, twirling past.
Singing. Sighing. Riding fast.

Midnight's come, and Midnight's gone,
The Phantom dances on the lawn.
The darkest point is coming soon,
And with it's passing, a lighter tune.

Piano music drifting out,
Down the alley, from the flat.

Human melody creates a hold,
Warming a Night turned burning cold.
The window lights shine faintly ill
Like some eyes unblinking still. 

Ancient creaks breaking silence.
Cavernous shadows. Geological science.            

Musty wind shudders with a wail
It knows the Queen will again prevail
She’ll come in time to reclaim
All that was Hers, which Night took away.

Wheat fields drifting 'neath the moon.
Watching. Waiting. Falling soon. 

Shadows crawl across the lands,
Misting acres with their hands.
Dew is setting into sleep;
The harvest readying to be reaped.

Ruins dying in desert lands. 
Crumbling obelisks in star-kissed sands. 

Amber skies are waking
Morning burns, light is breaking
Time yawns, Night’s day is ending
The Pawn retreats, with demise pending

Street lamps burning in the yards.
Flickering. Floating. Lighted shards.

The Queen awakens, holding Dawn.
The world waves goodbye to a broken Pawn.
Night is dead, and Day’s alive.
The board’s reset, and so life strives.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We Mis/DisCommunicate

"Oh, us and our good intentions."
"Good intentions are the road to good deeds."
"Dot. Dot. Dot. So, we'll make soap!"

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Love is Not a Passing Bravery

            Thousands of opportunities to demonstrate love knock on my heart daily. To encourage a struggling brother. To comfort a hurting friend.  To pick up where another left off. To forget for a second, my wants, and to instead meet another's. To clean up messes, prevent wounds, and shoulder burdens. To wash feet. To serve as Christ did.

             Instead of welcoming Opportunity to Love with open arms, I often hide behind the shades, cowardly waiting until it leaves. I shoo it away - away from my door, far from my eyes. I deadbolt my door against it. Many days, I spend all my time behind those curtains; and some days, I never even hear Opportunity knocking. I convince myself that I'm honorably ignoring a distraction - to open that door will only sidetrack me. But in truth, with every cringe behind those dark curtains, I lose the extraordinary opportunity to share in the gospel of Love. I say "no" to putting my flesh to death. I forfeit the opportunity to emulate Christ and grow in His Spirit. Every time Opportunity to Love walks away in resignation from my door,  I lose. Tremendously.

             And somehow, in all this curtain hiding, peep-hole peeking, door bolting, I still manage to believe that I DO love. I do care about others. Would someone please hand me a dictionary and show me the definition for "Delusional"? I do occasionally help someone out {okay, so usually there's an ulterior motive}. Those I care about, I'll go the extra mile for, but so long as it isn't painful, or too boring, or humbling, or disruptive to my day. . . and, boy, if it is, you can be sure I'm complaining about it in my heart. I "love" when it's easy; when it's popular, when it benefits me. I have clasped to this distorted view of love, or more accurately, the lack thereof. I  I have worn it. I have chased it. I have proudly attempted to love others without causing any discomfort to myself - and all this has been done in the name of love. For the cause of me. How utterly deceptive.

             "Love - I made it mine. I made it small; I made it blind. I followed hard only to find. It wasn't love."

             It wasn't love.

             But this is . . .

             Love bared His flesh to bloodying lashes. Love humbly accepted spit upon His face. Love bore in silence, a humiliating crown of thorns crushed upon His brow. Love took nails driven crudely through His skin, shattering bone and ligament. As life dwindled from His veins and breath from His lungs, Love forgave the depraved generation, hurling vulgarities at Him. In the greatest demonstration of love, time has ever known, Love became His Father's rejection. Love drank the cup - the draught frothing with the sin of man, the cup that would require the full vengeance of God's wrath.

             And the night before this ultimate love offering, Love knelt to tenderly wash the dust-caked feet of His followers. In His hands -  soon be rendered asunder by metal barbs - He gently took and cleaned the feet of His betrayer. Love served. Love protected. Love kept no record of wrongs. Love did not boast. Love was not self-seeking. Love did not hide behind curtains. Love took the washbasin, and became the Servant. Love accepted the nails, and became the slaughtered Lamb.

            And this was done under the Banner of Love. For the Cause of redeeming the depraved captives.

            This was Love. 

            It's time to take the curtains down.

           "Love not of you. Love not of me. Come hold us up; come set us free. Not as we know it, but as it can be."

Quotes taken from Sara Groves' song, "Love". 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

         In There You'll Find Me, Finley Sinclair, 18 year-old hotel heiress, {Paris Hilton, anyone?} enrolls in an Ireland student exchange program to find relief, inspiration, and reconciliation with God. Relief from the haunting of her older brother's recent death, murdered by Taliban terrorists. Inspiration for her upcoming violin audition - her ticket into the New York music conservatory. And reconciliation with a God whom she claims has kept her on hold, and waiting in silence for far too long. 

          But through many painfully unrealistic coincidences Finley is constantly thrown into the company of teen heartthrob, Beckett Rush. Beckett, the leading star in the filming of a rabidly famous vampire movie, {Edward Cullen, anyone?} helps Finley locate a egnimatic Celtic cross in exchange for her services as a script runner. Finley is certain that this specific relic, captured on film by her deceased brother, will bring closure to his death and the culminating inspiration for her composition. 

         ...And that's basically the story. Throw in some mean girl drama, a side story of a dying woman's regret, Beckett's very unhollywood-like gentleman behavior, Finley's mental and emotional struggles, and a very predictable everyone-is-happy-forevemore ending sums it up in a nutshell. 

        I found There You'll Find Me to be extremely unrealistic; the plot was remedial; the characters were more or less undeveloped, and the ending was cookie-cutter boring. The book wasn't bad; it just wasn't good. But, that's solely my opinion. There You'll Find Me has 4 1/2 stars on Amazon. The reviews there are very favorable. Towards the end, the book explores spiritual threads of forgiveness, self-deception, and peace. But even so, I was disappointed. It failed to hit me at the heart or play with my mind.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Postings To Resume Soon

             "There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." -Walt Disney

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pattern of Wounds: A Roland March Mystery

             Last month, Bethany House Publishers e-mailed me a list of five soon-to-be-released suspense novels. I read the summaries: An international intelligence thriller; a cheesy-looking natural disaster page-turner; a crime novel involving supernatural foul play; a young adult fantasy thriller; and a murder mystery.

             The last piqued my interest: Pattern of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand. Not because of its plot line, but because it was set in Houston. I doubted that the author would accurately represent the city. And so, expecting to be both entertained and disappointed by a slipshod depiction of Houston, I chose to review Bertrand's book.

             The premise of the book is interesting: HPD detective, Roland March, is put on an intriguing murder case - one that is eerily familiar to one he had solved ten years before. March is convinced there's a connection between the two, but what and how? The killer of the previous murder is in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, awaiting execution. Did March's habit of cutting corners and smudging facts result in the conviction of an innocent man? Or is there an even more dangerous, sinister individual out there, baiting March with a staged murder scene.

             Though it has an intriguing basis, the mystery is quite predictable. Like unrealistically so. I, who can very rarely solve an Agatha Christie {rarely, as in, almost never}, pinpointed the killer long before the tenured detective ever did. Let's hope that's an unrealistic portrayal of the Houston Police Department. However, the very final sentence of the book I did not foresee. It left me stunned. The mystery was wrapped up, the criminal in custody, the case closed as far as Roland March was concerned . . . but the last sentence leaves the reader with an unsatiated question and ever-growing curiosity. If I were to read the sequel, it would not be because I loved the Pattern of Wounds, but because I want to know the "why" to that clincher of a sentence.

            Classified as Christian Suspense, Pattern of Wounds is from the present-tense perspective of March, a nonbeliever. His wife, two tenants, and coworker lovingly chip away at his soul, slowly bringing him closer to realizing his need for Christ. But the evil, corruption, and depravity that March faces everyday on the job, are the barrier between him and God. There is no cliche Gospel pitch in the book, but instead a very thought-provoking discussion between March and his young tenant, Carter, on the ageless question, "Why does God allow bad things to happen, especially to innocent children and those that love Him?" This conversation introduced the book's spiritual theme: God's sovereignty, a fallen world, man's free will, and the unique environment these three agents create.

           Oh, and about the author's rendition of Houston? Let's just say, that after reading Pattern of Wounds, I know more about the city, than I thought possible. With minute detail {perhaps too much}, Bertrand describes I-45, the buildings on Alabama and Buffalo Speedway, River Oaks' mansions, the architectural design at the University of Houston Main Campus {including that particular campus fountain}, and a thousand other monuments, locations, and H-town oddities, that only city natives would be familiar with. Far from disappointing, Bertrand's representation of the Bayou City wasn't so much entertaining, as downright informative.

* I obtained a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One Call Away: Brenda Warner's Memoir

Short & Sweet OverView Review
  • Stars - 4 out of 5
  • Genre - Christian Life / Inspirational
  • Who should read - I recommend for anyone who appreciates a memoir - football fan or not. 
  • Would I read again - Yes, but not anytime soon
  • Likes - It's a life story in 351 pages. Though the memoir focuses in on Brenda's many personal tragedies, it also includes needed anecdotes to provide comic relief. 
  • Dislikes - It seemed that in the book, Brenda Warner only mentions God in relation to her needing Him in the midst of hardship. I felt {keyword: felt} that the Brenda was sending the message, most likely unintentionally, that we only seek God when we need him.

The Review

         A successful memoir requires a fascinating life, with enough gripping material and anecdotal content to keep the reader captivated. Brenda Warner, wife of NFL quarterback, Kurt Warner, has lived a life that makes the cut.

         In her memoir, One Call Away: Answering Life's Challenges with Unshakable Faith, Brenda Warner lays her tragedies, her struggles, and her fallen humanity before the literary world. She was Marine. A mother of a special needs son. A betrayed wife. A single mom of two, getting by on food stamps. She lost her parents in a devastating tornado. She remarried, to rising football star, Kurt Warner, who would later take three different teams to the Superbowl. She went from welfare-recipient divorcee to celebrity-status wife of a multi-millionaire sport's hero.

        She shares the frustrations of being a wife to a NFL super-star: it's not always glamorous, it easily destroys relationships, and kills any sense of normalcy. She also openly regrets many of her impetuous actions {anybody remember that infamous radio call-in from a furious NFL wife?}.

        An authentic memoir will allude, whether intentionally or not, to the memoiree's fallen nature. Throughout the book, Brenda admits various regrets - most of which resulted from the pressure of being married to an NFL star. However, from my reading it also appears that Brenda Warner greatly values her strength and self-sufficiency. More than once, Brenda makes claim to how secure she is in who she is. But, the security doesn't appear to spring from the love and grace of Jesus Christ, but from her ability survive great hardship, her beautiful looks {which she addresses throughout the book}, and status. It's not overkill, but this subtle theme is present. This may bother some, but I realized that when it comes to memoirs, I care to see the heart-thoughts and soul-feelings of the individual, and if the individual is human, and if the individual shares the truth, then it follows that the sinful humanity of the individual will be perceived without too much difficulty.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America's Faith & Promise

    Short & Sweet OverView Review

  • Stars: 4 of 5
  • Type: Non-fiction/Christianity/Politics/State/General
  • Who Should Read: Anyone who would like a quick surface read of the social/political/spiritual issues that are contributing to America's downward spiral. I especially recommend this book for individuals who are not well-versed in hot-button political issues. 
  • Would I read again: Nah. It's a good reference guide for strong conservative quotes and statistics, but once you've read it, you've got it. 
  • Likes: I really appreciate the unique perspective Dr. Swain has as a conservative African American woman. Her own life-story is inspiring. 
  • Dislikes: It seemed a bit jumpy from subtopic to subtopic. I finished Be the People feeling like I had just eaten samples throughout, instead of a full meal. 

    The Review
     In her newest book, Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America's Faith and Promise, Dr. Carol Swain outlines the social, political, and spiritual issues that are currently threatening the viability of the United States of America and all that it embodies. 

     With straightforward thinking, Swain sets forth informative chapters in which she discusses the negative impact the liberal media and government has had on abortion, the family, illegal immigration, racism, affirmative action, and national sovereignty.  Each individual topic is covered extensively. For instance, in the illegal immigration chapter she highlights amnesty, tourist birthers, rule of law, anchor babies, employer sweeps, etc., 

     Swain writes with an authority and credibility. She was the second of twelve children and the child of parents who could boast but 3rd grade and 8th grade educations. Swain, herself, dropped out of high school, became a teenage mother, had an abortion, and two divorces before she understood she had the ability to achieve greater and live better. She obtained her GED, went to community college, attended a four-year university, and later graduated from law school. She gave her life to Christ in 1999. She is currently a political science and law professor at Vanderbilt University. 
    Swain knows well both her subject matter and audience. She is authentic and knowledgeable. And though she highlights the many weak points in America's social and political structure and the need for their overhaul, Swain clearly relates that it all must begin with national repentance: "With concerted effort and a plan of action, we can help restore America to its former glory. We must being with foundational recognition that we have sinned and participated in great evils..."
    Complete with an appendix containing the Ten Commandments, Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution, Be the People is a motivational tool designed to activate Christians to speak up and stand up for that yesteryear America of pilgrim dreams and biblical principles. Be the People will resonate with Christians across the country whose highest patriotic desire is for the United States of America to leave it's spiritual exile and return to its God. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mildly Side-Tracked, But Happily So

I relish the summer. But not unconditionally. I could certainly do without the ever-existent summer heat. I could happily forgo the humid climate. And I don't find much pleasure in the fact that the outdoors denote sweat. Every time. Without fail.

And yet, this sweltering atmosphere encourages a side-trackment that is unique to the summer months. Or perhaps, it is simply that the absence of school, and deadlines, and hours specifically allotted to a specific task promote radical flexibility. I'm partial to the first option - it sounds more philosophical, but because of that very fact the second one is probably the more accurate suggestion.

And so, though I have moderately diverted from my intentioned summer plans {drawing, cooking, poetry, story-writing} which I had created with great detail and arranged with such care during Biology 2401 in the spring - that class was tryingly dry - I find myself doing one thing consistently everyday. Several times everyday. Reading.

To myself. To mom. To Griff. To myself again. And some days I'm read to {Dr. Suess anyone?} by a budding bibliomaniac - ok, so he is only 7 years old.

And yet, I'm digressing...side-trackment becomes quite a habit, I find.

To myself I'm reading . . .
Be the People - review coming. Seriously.
Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts has literally sent my mind reeling. Oh, the winsome beauty that can be born into being by the scratch of the pen. It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words - with Ann it seems the opposite is true.
Uncompromising by Hannah Farver - it arrived via USPS during the lunch hour. I'm nearly finished. Not with lunch, with the book, that is. It will certainly be reviewed. And if any of my girl-friends have birthdays coming up, that's what they're getting. It's that good. Honest.

To Mom I'm reading . . .
Death in the Clouds, by Agatha Christie. It's predictably perplexing. Intriguing all the same. We have a hunch that the American actor was the one who purchased the South American blowpipe and arranged the fatal aeroplane flight. But, knowing Christie, and, knowing my mom and myself, the murderer is probably the unassuming banana-eating mystery writer, Mr. Clancy. Oh, well.

To Griff I'm reading . . .
Cruel as the Grave. I'm a fan-favorite of the author, Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte {E.D.E.N.} Southworth. She was Harriet Beecher Stowe's contemporary, becoming one of the most-read authors of the late 19th century. I personally view her as the Mother of Soap Operas or Chick-Lit, with some gothic undertones thrown in. Murder, romance, politics, disgraced nobility, estranged wives, heroic youths are Mrs. Southworth's pet elements. But she pulls it off gracefully, and always with a nod to the Gospel message.

And in between this, the little boy-budding-reader may let me hear a few pages of the Cat in the Hat. But usually not without some tears on his part. But, I digress.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Currently Reading . . .

         Published several weeks ago by Thomas Nelson Publishing, Dr. Carol Swain's "Be the People" is a timely analysis of the Judeo-Christian founding of America. By exploring America's covenantal conception and the present departure from the biblical vows forged during the nation's infancy, Dr. Swain presents a call to action - a call to reclaim America's faith and promise. 
Dr. Swain recognizes the crux of the issue is not simply the more-recent abdication of conservative policies, but the nationwide renouncement of God. A full review to come. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sweet Serenity of Books - HWL

A boat, beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July . . .

          So begins one of my favorite poems memorializing summer (See last page of "Through the Looking Glass".) I am terribly fond of perusing literature -  re-reading my all-time favorites and discovering new literary treasures - during grand old summertime.

          To my great enjoyment, I recently fell upon (not literally) Associated with Thomas Nelson Publishers, offers free copies of new releases in exchange for blogger reviews. I'm a book enthusiast. Especially of ones that get delivered to your door with a $0 price tag. No shipping and handling. Yes. I'm a fan already. Bethany House Publishers also extends a similar offer. And so, I set up this blog to review these such books, and any other books that I just so happen to get my hands on (and most likely a bundle of my all-time favorites will make an appearance at some time or another).

. . . Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die.