Among Grandmother’s Books


Hazel Felleman came to work for The New York Times as a teen-ager in 1905.  Eventually, she edited the Queries and Answers column, answering the questions of readers. I imagine we would not have heard of Ms. Felleman had Wikipedia been around. Often she would receive letters containing a snippet of poetry. Readers would ask if she could tell them the source of the poetry. She would answer and publish the poem as well.  So often did the questions come about the same poem that she began to keep records of the answers and ultimately published a book of poetry called The Best Loved Poems of the American People (still available on Amazon!). She explains in the preface:

The majority of inquiries that I receive are for favorite poems, and since not a day passes that does not bring to my desk a large sheaf of letters from all parts of the country, it is only natural that I have learned something of the poetry preferences of the American people. I have used this knowledge rather than my own personal liking in the selection of these poems; but I feel free to say that there are few of the poem that I would not have included myself.

Ms. Felleman worked for The New York Times for 46 years and retired in 1951. She died on April 30, 1975. You can read her interesting obituary HERE

Recently I stumbled upon a stack of books that belonged to my grandmother. As a book hound, I was immediately interested. I loved my grandmother as a child but circumstances led to my not seeing her much in the last years of her life. That’s a story in itself, but suffice it to say that it was neither her nor my choice that we didn’t see one another. But back to the books. Her books were not my usual interest, but I procured a couple of them and brought them home. One of them was a book of poetry. Yes, Hazel Felleman’s Best Loved Poems book.

Now I must confess that poetry is not my great love. However, the snippets of paper and pencil markings seemed to give me a guided tour of what may have been my grandmother’s favorite poems. There are nearly 700 pages of poetry, assembled according to subject matter, but I decided to at least thumb through it. I admit that some of the poems caught my eye … and some caught my heart.

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. – Robert Frost

I  noticed familiar names like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, RudyardStockSnap_WAFKX8JUDB Kipling, Edwin Markham, Alfred Tennyson, William Wordsworth and that poet best known as Unknown. I expect that if Ms. Felleman couldn’t find out who wrote it, then the author is truly unknown. I began marking the poems that really struck me. These are the ones I want to revisit sometime when I’ve wandered through the entire volume.

Lines keep running through my mind …

I am weary of the Garden, Said the Rose;

For the winter winds are sighing,

All my playmates round me dying,

And my leaves will soon be lying ‘Neath the snows.


If you should go before me, dear, walk slowly

Down the ways of death, well-worn and wide,

For I would want to overtake you quickly

And seek the journey’s ending by your side.


I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me;

I’d like to be the help that you’ve been always glad to be’

Id like to mean as much to you each minute of the day

As you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way.


If you want to have the kind of a church, Like the kind of a church you like,

You needn’t slip your clothes in a grip, And start on a long, long hike.

You’ll only find what you left behind, For there’s nothing really new.

It’s a knock at yourself when you knock your church; It isn’t the church – it’s you.


While posting a few of these in entirety on my Facebook page I realized that poetry resonates with a wide range of people. I think I was missing out on something, not being enamored with poetry.

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. – Leonardo da Vinci

I don’t know what will become of this book. Perhaps one of my grandchildren will happen upon it once I’m gone and think to themselves that they might like to read the poems that Poppy liked. I hope so.

…And few shall know we ever lived a hundred years from now… Mary A. Ford

Out Here Hope Remains, JD.

Did Not Overcome

The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]. – John 1:5, AMP

I hope your new year is beginning with brightness and optimism. Resolutions, plans for new ways to approach our issues, and the hope that things are going to be different in the next 365 days than they were before. After the fireworks and shifting the Christmas decor back into the attic we look around and things remain about the same. Those struggles? Still there. The pain? It still hurts. The issues? They’re nagging. The hope for something different … it is dimming.

What really changed in our new year’s celebrations? Just a replacement of the old calendar with a new one and acquiring the new habit of writing 2018 instead of 2017. (As a bonus, though, it’s easy to correct the 7 to an 8!) I know that sounds pessimistic, but if any of us were thinking that the arrival of January meant brand new life, we were wrong.

I do, however, believe in the potential for new life. It just doesn’t come from a calendar. Into a sin-soaked and sin-darkened world the Light of Jesus came. The darkness didn’t get him … wouldn’t accept him … even today it yammers about him. The darkness tried to kill him. Couldn’t. The darkness tried to kill his people. This resurrection thing is just hard to overcome! The darkness tries to deny him. He keeps saving anyone who will believe in him.

New life comes from the light of the world. New life comes from living in the light of grace. Grace doesn’t deny sin, it heals and lets in the light. New life comes from yielding to the Spirit. The more I try to fix my own life the worse things get.  New life comes from the story of the light. The more I get to know him the more I love him.

“Grace shatters our darkness. Grace explodes on us with penetrating, heart-exposing light. Grace illumines our dank hallways and our dark corners. The Son of grace shines the light of his grace into the darkest recesses of our hearts, not as an act of vengeance or punishment, but as a move of forgiving, transforming, and delivering grace”. – Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies

Can We Find New Life When We Feel We Live in the Darkness?

Some days I still don’t get it. How could he live, die, resurrect, and love a sinner like me? Why is there darkness still around when the King of Light is reigning? Why … why … why … humans have been asking for eons. But the transformational power for new hope and new life comes even in my hours of wondering and weakness. It’s not a change of calendar, it is a change of Savior. Thank you, Jesus, for your great love for all who trust in the Light that the Darkness could not, and never will, overpower.

“When I endure, in the darkness of faith, the prolonged wait for the God who comes, he has already come to me and is embracing me silently, with the same embrace with which I, in faith, embrace him. – Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes

Whether you find yourself in darkness or light, remember, out here hope remains. JD



Book Question and Winner!

Congratulations to Rusty Pettus for being randomly chosen to win the Tim Keller book. Thanks to all of you who commented (and for your kind comments). I will do another giveaway soon … just a small way of sharing with others! 

Until then … as we wrap up 2017 … what’s the best book you read this year on a spiritual theme? I think we can stipulate that the BIBLE is the very best….so other than that? Would love to hear what book has impacted your faith and spiritual journey this year.

I had a goal on Goodreads to read 25 books this year. I finished 21 and am close with a few others…I might make it! It’s hard to pick one that was most beneficial to me. I do think, though, that the one that touched my heart the most was MONDAYS WITH MY OLD PASTOR.  Check it out!

TKellerOnce again, Rusty will be receiving the excellent Tim Keller book of devotionals from Proverbs. Rusty is the minister for the Natural Bridge Church of Christ in Lynn, Alabama. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter


Here’s a New Year prayer I found in the Spill The Beans publication that I’d like to share:

Sweep out the old.

Sweep in the new.

Sweep out fear.

Sweep in love.

Sweep out war.

Sweep in peace.

Sweep out poverty.

Sweep in sharing.

Sweep out all that breaks God’s heart.

Sweep in love and compassion.

The gifts of God for us to share.


Wherever life finds you today, remember that out here hope remains. JD



As we approach the end of this year, I appreciate this prayer. It is found in the Sarum Missal, an 11th-century book of prayer and worship practices. I wasn’t thumbing through the Sarum Missal, however. I found this prayer in Elizabeth Goudge’s Diary of Prayer, a book I’ve come to appreciate. It has prayers for each day of the year. So today’s prayer is this one:

We beseech thee, O gracious Lord, let our hearts be enlightened by the holy radiance of thy Son’s Incarnation; that so we may escape the darkness of this world, and by his guidance attain to the country of everlasting clearness. 

The country of everlasting clearness. What an expression of hope and recognition that we do see through a glass darkly, as Apostle Paul said.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly [in a riddle] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

…The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

The darkness of this world is demonstrated daily in communities where we live. The atrocities of far away places have us shaking our heads; the violence that takes place within our villages stuns us. Only the light of the Son of God can provide illumination for the path out of the darkness. 

We should long for a country of everlasting clearness. To be able to understand God’s plan and know His love with complete clarity – that blessing awaits us in another time. To share with others a fellowship untinged by mixed motives and doubtful questions will be pure joy. To be secure without consideration of what might happen or how to survive the things that do happen will be such a relief. To be in a country of everlasting clearness

I’m hoping that our new year leads us closer to that place. I know only Jesus, light of the world, can show us the way. 

And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim… Isaiah 32:3

Until then, out here hope remains. JD


Merry Christmas & A Giveaway

YOU CAN READ THIS ENTIRE POST OR you can skip to the end where there are a giveaway and a free download! Merry Christmas!

Here we are at the end of 2017. How has 2017 been for you? You know how there are certain years that are just marked because of events that happened – whether happy or sad? 

1963 was my mom’s favorite year because I was born. (This could be fake news, not fact checked!)

1987 was the year I married the bright and beautiful Margaret (Maggy, as she likes to be called these days) and became a father figure to the eclectic and engaging Niki (Nicole or Heather, as she likes to be called these days). 

1989 was the year my son John Robert was born. 

2005 was the year that Hurricane Katrina flooded our coastal community and ignited a two+ year recovery mission that still hovers in my mind. 

2008 was the year I’d like to just carve out of my life and remove. It was the year we said goodbye to John Robert and my stepdad Harold. It was the year my mom had breast cancer (but she is a survivor!). 

2017 is the year that my dad began an intense spiral into the devastation of Alzheimer’s Disease. The emotional and physical toll this took on me is still being hammered out in my own mind. 

Then there’s 2018. Who knows? Only God.

Of course, those are not all the highlights and low places of my life. For every year that we can name something great, there were things that weren’t so great. For every year when it looked like a disaster, God was present to see us through and we can see blessings now we couldn’t see at the time.

Over the years OUT HERE HOPE REMAINS has taken different shapes as the internet and online experiences have changed. Facebook took over the entire internet. The things we used to blog about we now post in five seconds, take a picture, and before an hour passes we have friends (both known and unknown!) liking them. But nowadays personal blogs are mostly passe´, and that’s ok. 

I’m grateful for everyone who takes a few minutes to scan anything I’ve written. Hopefully, it’s a blessing to you and in the coming year I will be able to share some more thoughts that remind us that out here, hope remains.

As a ‘Thank You’ to those who read, I’m going to give away a copy of TimothyKeller’s book of devotional thoughts through the Proverbs. To be entered into the giveaway, simply post a reply on the blog itself (not the Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media postings!). In your reply, indicate if you’d rather have hardback or kindle edition. That’s easy, right? Deadline to enter is midnight, December 27th. 

Oh, and I promised a free download! For the past five years, I have participated in a summer blog tour. Those blog posts are written by an assortment of excellent thinkers. I can hardly believe they let me in the group! All five sets of those posts are available in ebooks in .pdf format for download at my friend Peter Horne’s blog HERE. This past summer’s theme was Faith Unshackled. With a .pdf you can read it on your computer, phone, or send it to your Kindle address and read it on any device with a free Kindle app. Hope you enjoy those! I do!

I appreciate you and hope you’ll have a great Christmas. Pray for those who are facing the first Christmas without a loved one, suffer from the pangs of depression and loneliness, or who have no one with them on special days. And whatever 2018 brings, I pray it will be one of those years marked by a joy that you can remember for the rest of your days.

Out Here Hope Remains, JD





The West Wing

Tonight I finished watching all seven seasons of The West Wing. The West Wing ran from 1999-2006. I remember watching some of it but I didn’t stick with it. Politics is not my favorite world to inhabit anyway. But thanks to the tepid (and other unkind words) offerings of the networks for television, I decided to take a look at this old show and I’m so glad I did. The first five seasons were simply excellent viewing in every way. The acting, writing, and themes were all great. The sixth season a little less so, and the seventh season I made myself watch although I found it had outlived it’s story (and my interest).  I’m mentioning this because there might be someone who hasn’t watched it who’s scanning across the channels looking for something … anything… with some substance and entertainment value to watch. But I’m mostly mentioning this because in some small way watching The West Wing gave me a reprieve from the distressing real-world of politics in which we live.

The fictional President in this series is a Democrat and some of the positions taken, some characterizations of Republicans, and a very few episodes that sounded kind of preachy are notable, but not frequent.  But the reason I was so drawn in to this show were all the things that remind me of what I’m missing today. The imaginary Bartlet Administration wasn’t perfect but I did like the portrayal of a certain quality of life … a set of values that focused on the importance of people. There was a camaraderie of the cast in the presentation of the way they worked together through tough situations. There was, in a word, civility.

Civility has become a lost art … a relic of the past … a gaping hole in our society but also among our leaders in Washington. Civility has been replaced by a crass spirit of profanity and a vulgar display of accusation without restraint. Not just by one person or one party, but it pervades the landscape.

It’s almost as if voters in this country wanted such leaders. And if we did want those kind of leaders, what does that say about us?

So every time I see power-house party leaders who won’t sit at a table and do the right thing for the American people … who are just concerned with their party’s well being or making a name for themselves … I’d just rather watch President Josiah Bartlet and think about the America that could be.

I don’t write much about politics. I still think I should vote. I should and do pray for our leaders … and all world leaders.  But mostly the blunders and tweets and positioning of the political world leaves me thirsty for that missing quality of civility.

Maybe I’ll start again with Season One.

Thanks for reading, JD.