Good Links (The Ring Leader Edition)

I live with some good folks. I wanted to share a photo of two of them. We've come to the end of another week. Do you feel it? Did you make the most of it?

Amber's leaving town this weekend to work on a writing project that's brewing. As much as I miss her when she's gone, I'm excited for her. She has good words percolating. I hope they'll make their way to your hands one day.

Yes, Amber is leaving, which means that I'll go from being a working father, to being the circus ring-leader of my four boys. I have big plans. Legos, man-night, pizza, root beer, movies with Japanese monsters that eat entire buildings in one gulp--we'll do it all.

I'll be occupied, no doubt. But for those of you with less weekend occupation, here are a few links to keep you busy.


This week, Amber describes sisterhood with her yoga instructor. Sure, there was the obligatory comment push-back regarding the eastern origins of yoga, but I reckon we all knew that was coming.

Shawn Smucker penned a beautiful piece for my blog this week. I could not be more humbled that he shared it here. Not only does he personify the corn fields in an incredible way, he deals with the issues of guilt and shame, and does it all with such a light touch. Shawn is the real deal.

Winn Collier dropped a twenty dollar thought in this week's piece entitled "The Good, Small Faith." He writes, "Many insist that Christian maturity means our faith grows larger and larger, but I believe that as we deepen into good life, our faith actually grows smaller and smaller." This is a short piece, but you won't want to miss it.

Sarah Bessey is a brave soul. This week, she asked the question "should an egalitarian attend a complementarian church?" Sweet Bertha. She's asking for it. And her people? They delivered. (See the comments.)


Yesterday, I ran across the wonderful Ann Voskamp's "Occupy Facebook," challenge, wherein she (and others) challenged us to take back Facebook by posting photos of art instead of... say... cats. I opted in, and she assigned me Wifredo Lam--attorney and artist extraordinaire. I posted his photo of Lam's work, "The Jungle."


I co-opted Sarah Markley's Facebook feed, asked her to participate by sharing a piece by Emma Marie Cadwalader Guild. She did. It's called, "Free."



It's been a good month for literary feasting here in the Ozarks. We've had our fair share of sub-freezing temperatures and gale-force winds, so we've hunkered down with good books here in the Haines house. This month, I took down Jeanne Murray Walker's incredible book The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's and Richard Rohr's The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics Saw.

"Although most of the accounts I’ve read about Alzheimer’s are characterized by horror, the truth is, even my mother’s final months were not relentlessly grim. … Watching her was like watching a rowboat come loose and drift away from a dock. I was the one standing on the dock watching the boat glide away." ~Jeanne Murray Walker

"Jesus, as the icon of Christ Consciousness, is the very template of total paradox: human yet divine, heavenly but earthly... [a]nd we have made this momentous and cosmic Christ into the private savior of our personal agendas." ~Richard Rohr

Neither book is what I'd call an easy read, but by-gum, they are solid additions to your library.


For those of you who know me, you know of my fondness for Carl Sandburg. This is a video of his digitized self reading "The People, Yes." I can't stop watching it.



We're all recovering from something. I believe it. Come ye cynics, ye drunkards, ye abused and abusers. Take a listen.

Good Links (The Pipe and Coffee Edition)

*This Euro-Shade coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab and the hand carved pipe from Uganda (courtesy Mike Rusch) are two of my favorite things these days. I thought I'd share them with you because they're just so pretty. Last night, a small group gathered in the party-room at Copeland's of New Orleans in celebration of Lisa Jo Baker, whose gypsy ways had carried her to Arkansas for a spit. It was a good night filled with conversation about things which I cannot now share, because as my new friend Steve Boss says, Copeland's is the Bourbon Street of Rogers. And as my grandma used to say (long before Las Vegas stole her quip), "what happens on Bourbon street stays on Bourbon Street."

(If you would like, and at some later date, we can discuss how my grandmother first took me to Bourbon street when I was twelve, and can further discuss the efficacy of life lessons learned on that iconic boulevard in my tender years.)

After supper, Amber and I lay in bed sipping tea when Lisa Jo left a message. It went something like this, "I've been traveling, and I'm tired, and I have no words left because motherhood stole them all from me, and would you be kind enough to submit a five minute free write on the word 'visit' in the next ten minutes?"

A Challenge? Why yes, indeed! I love a challenge.

And that brings us to our weekly roundup of good links.


1.  Join me today at Lisa Jo's Five Minute Friday free writing prompt. After you read along, jot one yourself. Not familiar with the prompt? It's simple. Sit and write for five minutes about a particular word of Lisa Jo's choosing. This week's word is "visit." Set a timer. Grab a pen, and go! No editing. No second thoughts.

2.  It seems that Facebook is always tinkering with it's site, always trying to attract more users in hopes that it will not go the way of MySpace. This week, the social media network announced that it would again be tinkering with its page algorithms in an effort to make it easier for page managers to share content. What was the problem? I'm glad you asked. Amber shares in her piece "Advice for Bloggers,"

Bloggers, when you link to a blog on Facebook, add the link using only your right hand to type. The tongue should stick out to the left. Set your laptop down. Do a few pirouettes, and then press Enter. That should do it. My friend Lora Lynn thinks you should also spit, but that’s debatable because she’s from Alabama...

3.  Many of you know of my love for Tweetspeak Poetry. They're bringing poetry back to the people, I say, and they're doing it one challenge at a time. For instance, consider their challenge to the poetry-averse Sandra Heska King,

“We’d like you to read not just a poem a day but a poem from one particular poet a day. (That is, the same poet every day.) And that poet, for reasons we have yet to discover, isT.S. Eliot.

Don't miss this piece at Tweetspeak poetry about the 30 day poetry dare.

4. Finally, this week Grace Biskie asked an important question--"what are you supposed to tell your sons about the Black Woman chair?" What's the black woman chair, you ask? Don't miss Grace's piece this week. It's that important.


I feel so terrible about dropping One Direction videos on the blog this week. I'm here to make up for it. I'm leaving with you a few stellar pieces. I hope you enjoy.

Good Links (The Prophetic Imaginative Edition)

Say hello to my friends Lamar and Scott. They are beautiful pair, no? These are just two of the talented and creative folks that allowed me to tag-along with them to Ethiopia last week. I hope to write more about the trip and the work of Help One Now in the coming days, but for now, I hope this photo suffices. Yes, I returned from Ethiopia and broke my blog fast. It was a good two month break, one in which I sorted some things out and got a few things straight. (We all need to do that from time to time; don't we?) And when I came back, lo and behold, the internet had kept on a-goin' without me. What's more, there's been some excellent content generated in the last week or so. Allow me to share some of my favorites with you.


Even though it's early in the year, Amber has taken to more intentional writing on her blog, and let me tell you the truth--she's on a roll. Yesterday, she shed her inhibitions and wrote, "Even in my youth, snorting powder off a stranger’s bathroom sink through a rolled-up dollar bill, I knew even then that God was about shaping me. I knew He would eventually make me His friend." You won't want to miss her piece, "To Love the Shape of Your Life."

Ah, the inimitable Preston Yancey! Yesterday, he came out swinging (at himself) on Deeper Story. He wrote "When This is my Best Life Now," an honest piece, one in which he threatened to write plainly about the questions that haunt. He threatens; he threatens; then he leaves us only with this:

"But I’ll tell you now, here, the current questions, the things that keep me up at night:

██████████████████ love ██████████████████████████████████

███████████████████████████████ God ████████████████████████████

█████ always ████

[Some content redacted to protect the author.]"

Thanks for the good words, Preston. This was, by a long shot, one of the cleverest pieces I've read in some time.

Who would I be if I didn't leave you with a little poetry? This week, Suzannah Paul pens "Playing for Keeps," a poem that tests the tension between unity and safe silence. She writes:

One-size-fits-few and yet we clip each others' wing to suit our style, curse the gifts another brings: a Trojan horse! a trick! a trap! Cast aspersions, try to flatten nuance, dulling spectrums, shrink to fit. Weary, wear, until we quit, but what if

Be sure to read the poem in its entirety at Suzannah's place.


Bless Mandy Steward (have you read her book yet? Why not?!?), who generously shared the following link with me. It's Walter Brueggemann on "prophetic imagination," poetry, and imagery. In the interview, Brueggemann claims, "the poetry keeps opening, and opening, and opening, whereas the doctrinal practice of the church is always to close, and close, and close until you are left with nothing that has any transformative power." An audacious claim?


This week, I'm taking the cheater's way out. On Monday, I put out a call for book recommendations. Many of you have responded with some great suggestions (see the comments). It's a good list. Feel free to add your picks, too!


I can't stop listening to this album by Robbie Seay. It traveled with me to Ethiopia, and in the evenings, while swinging in my hammock, I listened to it under the stars. More than once, I also used it to drown out the sounds of hyenas. It was a good traveling companion.


Lamar Stockton:


Do you feel like I've missed any great links from this week? Feel free to recommend your favorites in the comments below!

Good Links (The Ozark Fall Edition)

Another week is in the books here in the Ozarks, and we have plenty to be thankful for, even in the uncertainty. Fall is poised to break through the foothills sometime this evening, and I've started the process of digging out my favorite sweaters. The Weather Channel is predicting a break from our eighty degree purgatory, says we'll be finding highs in the sixties by tomorrow. I love the changing of the seasons, the way it hangs low clouds over the peaks and valleys of the Boston Mountains. By mid-October, the sugar maples will begin their blush, the Oaks will turn cowards. I'm anticipating it.

By now, some of you may have read about Titus. He's loosing weight again, yes. It can be maddening at times and concerning at others, yes. We're trying our best to get to the bottom of it, yes. But the truth is, never a happier boy has there ever been. He's all out, full on, always running through. He's a wrecking ball of a boy, which I reckon to be a good thing. A kid like that can punch through walls of doubt like no one's business.



It's been a good week for music and the written word. A good week, indeed. Mandy Steward's new book, Thrashing About With God, released. Like any good feast, Steward's words deserve a good-right pairing. Instead of wine, though, I've been pairing it with Arlo Guthrie's album, "Washington County." It's a fine match, indeed. If you haven't picked up Thrashing, do it!

John Blase released his new book this week, too. In the Haines' house, John has two nicknames: "the poet of the people"; and, my personal favorite, "the cowboy of the internet." (Head nod to Amber for the latter one). It should be no surprise, then, that his book, Know When to Hold 'Em, approaches the topic of fatherhood with John's straightforward (but poetic) voice. I suppose this will be one every father needs in his library.


On Sunday, Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit released their new album, "Country Mile." If you aren't familiar with Flynn, it's time to start spinning his stuff. His last album "A Larum" is a poetic favorite of mine, and though I've only listened to "Country Mile" one time through, it has great promise. Check out his track "Murmation," in which he says "let's gather us up to the heavens above; we can always come back, my love."


As for links, it's been slim-pickings for me this week. I've spent little time in these online spaces, but yesterday I ran across Suzannah Paul's offering "incarnation." In it, she writes:

King in a cradle, born in a stable, Mighty God traded heaven for here. Man of sorrows, stricken, his blood-soaked shroud and ours are fuel for the fire.

I love her use of slant rhyme in the first line, the alliteration in the third and fourth lines. This poem just reads like a poem should. And just so we're clear, this piece served as the anchor for my morning devotion yesterday. I paired it with John 1. The two work well together.

John Blase brings a beautiful psalm of his own to the mix, too. In Sunday's Psalm, he writes:

You have bred us to write our own lyrics.
     We do not make the music, that’s sheer hubris.
     But we pen the words.

Enjoy John's words.

That's all I have for today, but I'll leave you with a little taste of Johnny Flynn. "The Water" is one of my favorites. It'll set your day right.

Ah, yes... This is Powerful Stuff.

It could have turned out different, I guess. Truth is, Amber and I almost called it quits twice in college. In fact, while we were engaged, we broke up for about fifteen minutes. I'd tell you the whys of that particular split, but it'd be too long, and boring, and probably a bit embarrassing. After a spell, I looked at Amber and said, "did we just break up?"

She looked at me. "Yes, I think so."

I thought for a moment, gathered my breath. "That's stupid. You want to get back together?"

We sat on the couch, laughed, and she said, "yes."

"That's good," I said. "I'm not sure what I'd do if you'd said no."

It took us a while to shake these wandering ways, the creeping notions that we might be better off alone. We carried wayward hearts into marriage, allowed them to be the devil on our shoulders, to threaten our vows, even. But the truth is powerful, and the truth is, all the wild horses in Montana couldn't drag us away from each other.

Ah yes, this is powerful stuff.

Last night, Preston Yancey commented a bit about his hope for a good love. I've been thinking about that, this being Valentine's Day and all. Good love doesn't come easy, and the process of becoming one is a painful refinement. I've never seen it play out any other way. But in that refinement, there's joy--faith and hope, too. (Not to mention children, and one day grandchildren, Lord willing.) And more than that, there's the working out of a grand metaphor.

But I'll leave that one for you to untangle.

Amber's away today, visiting her old stomping grounds to attend to some family business. I miss her something awful. I've abused this song lately, but if there's one thing our refining process has taught me, it's that the sun could fade, and... well... you know. Happy Valentine's, Amber!


If you have some time today, might I suggest that you read a good love story? I mean, a really good one? (And yes, I might be biased.) Visit Amber's "Love Songs," series

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