Writing contest for “Testimonies”

David Aikman, former journalist with Time Magazine and a friend and colleague of mine, has organized a writing contest designed to revitalize the genre of the “Testimony.”  That’s not just a conversion narrative, though it can be, but it can also refer to any true story of faith in a person’s life.  (For example, think of the tradition that ranges from St. Augustine’s Confessions and Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the more recent The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, and The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.)  The contest is for writers 35 and under, and it features a grand prize of $20,000!  And the contest doesn’t require an entire manuscript, just a proposal of 1,000-1,500 words!

We Lutherans tend to be leery of focusing on our lives, since we need to be focusing instead outside ourselves, on the Cross of Jesus Christ.  But there is a Lutheran way to write in this genre.  Notice too that you don’t need to write about yourself.  You can also write about someone else whom you’ve interviewed, researched, and whose story you are telling.  (For example, refugees from Ethiopia who have fled Muslim persecution; a survivor of the Soviet Gulag; an ordinary member of your congregation who has undergone great hardship with great faith).  Here is the website.  [More details after the jump.]

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My book on literature gets re-released

My book  Reading Between the Lines:  A Christian Guide to Literature has been re-issued in an updated format.  The publishers, Crossway Books, asked me to write about the book for their blog, which I did. [Read more…]

Chaucer & St. Valentine’s Day

You must read Rev. Joseph Abrahamson’s post on the origins and history of St. Valentine’s Day.  It’s part of his series that we’ve often linked to on Christian holidays that are mistakenly claimed to have pagan origins.  He shows that St. Valentine’s Day is not based on Roman festivals but on a day commemorating the death of a Christian martyr, though which of many saints with that name is a matter of some confusion.  The question, though, is how this saint’s day became associated with love and romance.

It turns out that the connection comes from one of my favorite authors, Geoffrey Chaucer! [Read more…]

At the still point of the turning world

From Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

via Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot.

(“The still point of the turning world” is from Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” the Four Quartets.)

What is Eliot saying about the Word?  about the Word in an age of unbelief?  What does this have to do with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent?

What to read for Lent?

One of the ways I observe Lent (which starts tomorrow) is to read.  I know, that’s like a fish saying that he is making plans to swim.  I read quite a bit anyway, but for my specifically Lenten reading I look for something that is challenging yet devotional.   What would you suggest?  (I’ll give you some suggestions after the break.  I have an idea for what I intend to take on, but I’d like to hear your recommendations, not just for me but for anyone else who would like some profitable Lenten reading.) [Read more…]

Finding and seeing Richard III

We blogged about how archeologists have discovered what they thought was the skeleton of King Richard III, the monarch who, according to Shakespeare’s play of the same name, murdered his way to the crown until he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth field (“a horse!  My kingdom for a horse!”) by Henry, the Earl of Richmond, who would found the Tudor dynasty.  Well, yesterday DNA evidence confirmed that the skeleton–with its curved spine (Shakespeare described him as a hunchback) and a skull that had been hacked by a sword–is, in fact, that of Richard III, the last of the Plantagenets.  Not only that, facial reconstruction based on the skull showed his face, which is exactly that of a contemporary portrait of Richard.  This has also sparked controversy about whether Shakespeare was a propagandist for the Tudors in making him such an over-the-top but extraordinarily interesting villain.  Some say Richard was a good king after all.  The details of the DNA research, my take on the controversy, and the  pictures are after the jump. [Read more…]