Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Life sometimes doesn’t turn out as planned. Sometimes?

I officially retired, at least from my day job, about 18 months ago. We had been planning for it for some time; I had given my notice of intent to retire almost a year before the official date.

The planning had been extensive, involving a financial advisor, an attorney, an accountant, a few other specialists (Do we need long-term care insurance? How do we start planning for medical insurance?). It was complicated, but we worked through it, with the help of a lot of good people.

Then, last December, Congress made a change in Social Security, and it was done on the quiet. The change didn’t disrupt the present, but it surely disrupted the near future. Everyone scrambled, and finally figured out the impact, recalibrated, and planned a way forward.

Now, with a new election and a new Congress (and President), we’re already hearing about plans to make changes in Social Security and Medicare. On the one hand we have government programs that aren’t sustainable, and with 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day, will become more unsustainable. On the other hand, you have a lot of elderly (and soon-to-be-elderly) people who have tried to plan their retirement based on the system they know and have paid into their entire working lives.

It’s unnerving. You think you know what to expect and then everything changes. One thing is certain: the new Congress will not be able to slip major changes in Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare on the sly like they did the last time. (And let’s be clear – the change last December was done by a Republican House, a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic president.)

So we have to keep a careful watch on what Congress will be up to. It may make good and needed changes, but we all still have to keep a careful watch.

What’s different for people like me and my wife is that we have a sturdy rudder to keep us on track when things get difficult. My first 18 months of retirement have been anything but calm. Financial changes. A client who didn’t want to pay for work. Family issues. Health issues. It’s been one surprise after another.

Yes, we can get tense. Yes, we can get angry. But we both know we will be okay.

What we have is called faith in God, and while that faith has sometimes sagged and stretched taut, that God has not. It’s like a whisper in our ears: “Steady as she goes. I’m here. I’m still teaching you things because you can teach experienced dogs new tricks. Be calm and know who I am.”

In Heart Made Whole: Turning Your Unhealed Pain into Your Greatest Strength, Christa Black Gifford says this: “Because of salvation, you will never again face a problem alone. The almighty God, the solution for everything, has unpacked His bags and made His Permanent home inside, giving you endless access to His perspective, wisdom, counsel, comfort, power, and grace.

And that, my friends, I can say from personal experience is the truth.

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

Photograph by Flash Alexander via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Poetic Asides: Norman Nicholson and Frank Stanford

One of the things I’ve learned from writing here at Tweetspeak Poetry is that, when it comes to poetry, the articles you write have a way of continuing to live. They may be reposted or republished on other sites, and they can lead you to continue reading more work by the poets you write about. Consider the poets Norman Nicholson and Frank Stanford.

I was reading A Poet’s Guide to Britain by Owen Sheers, which I wrote about in July. It was there I discovered (1914-1987) and his beautiful poem “Scafell Pike.” I did some digging and was able to find several of his poetry collections through used book dealers (mostly in the UK). And then I wrote in August about how he wrote about the landscape and environment of northern England, the Lake country, and the northwest English coast.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Photograph: Norman Nicholson.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Books I’m Not Recommending for Christmas, Part 1

So it’s that time again – time to not recommend books for Christmas. I have this thing about imposing my book choices on people, so I get around it by not recommending books I really enjoyed during this past year.

And it was a good year, perhaps a great year, for reading. This week I cover mysteries and suspense, fiction, faith, writing, and art. Next week I’ll cover history and biography, general non-fiction, and poetry.

For all the listings, the links direct you to my reviews or articles at this blog or Tweetspeak Poetry.

Mystery and Suspense

Two Judge Dee Mysteries by Robert Van Gulik.

The Chessmen by Peter May.

Burke’s Gamble by William Brown.

Murder and Other Acts of Literature, edited by Michele Slung.

The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell.

As the Crow Flies by Damien Boyd.

A Question of Inheritance by Elizabeth Edmondson.


East of Coker and Invective by Andy Owen.

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.

There Will Be Stars by Billy Coffey.

Romey’s Place by James Calvin Schaap.

A Whole Lot by Bradley Wind.

In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman.

The Story of Kullervo by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss.

Ember Falls by S.D. Smith.


The Word in the Wilderness by Malcolm Guite.

Chicken Scratch by Kelly Chripczuk.


Christian Writer’s Guide by Mary Harwell Sayler.


Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Images. Used with permission.