Thursday, January 18, 2018

Drive-By Blog Post

I beg your pardon for being out of touch for a bit. This is just a quick note to explain that, between Friday, Jan. 12 and Sunday, Jan. 14, I moved from my beloved Show Me State to Minnesota, where I have started a new job as a reporter at a small-town newspaper. I can now visit either of my parents (at least, when my mom is at her lake place) with little more than an hour of drive time each way - less, in the case of my dad and stepmom - and my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew are only a couple-three hours away. In fact, I'm suddenly much closer to most of my relatives than I have been these last 20 years and more. I guess I'll have fewer excuses for missing family events.

Unfortunately, the move required me to leave behind Sinead, my cat of more than 10 years. It also required some ridiculous maneuvers involving Uhaul Roadside Assistance, which I am itching to tell you about. But not yet. I don't have an internet connection at home, so I can only spare a moment or two on lunch breaks at work to post this. Stand by for more book reviews, original hymns, and whatnot, as soon as all my living arrangements are back up to snuff. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

235. Business Hymn

This is the installment in my series of "litany hymns for times in the Christian life" that has to do with the greater part of the typical person's life: work. I could have called it a "labor hymn," but I've already written one; I could also have called it a "vocation hymn," but I've already written one. So, it is what it is. And what its tune is, is a more-or-less original melody titled VINEYARD. It is inspired, in part, by the "laborers in the vineyard" parable in Matthew 20, and in part by select verses of Ecclesiastes 9. And yes, I know it's 11 stanzas. But it's a litany, you know? Go with it.
God, who made both day and night,
Help us work while it is light,
And to do with all our might
What becomes our calling.

For the grave no power knows,
Nor the fruit of wisdom grows;
One man reaps, another sows,
In this age of folly.

Yet, though time and death destroy
All we build, and woes annoy,
Help us nonetheless enjoy
What You give us daily.

Let us take, with merry heart,
Good supply that You impart;
Knowing, from creation’s start,
You declared us pleasing.

Though with sin our work is fraught,
Bring its reign in us to naught;
Cleanse us of its crimson spot
Through Christ’s dying labor.

As, in office, shop, or field,
Wares we sell or service yield,
Plowshare pull or weapon wield,
Help us love our neighbor.

As Your vineyard’s workers, we
Yearn the eventide to see,
When the late-hired hand will be
Long day’s wages given.

What more can be said or done?
“It is finished,” cried God’s Son;
Love’s reward, for sinners won,
God dispenses freely.

May we, therefore, watch and pray,
Work with Christ while it is day,
And when all things pass away,
Gather in Your vintage.

Then no more shall worry spoil,
Sorrow taint, or envy soil
Heaven’s rest, the new earth’s toil;
Death and sin shall perish.

Yet a little while, we view
This life’s empty striving through
Christ, who has made all things new.
Come again, Lord, quickly!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

234. Education Hymn

Here is another installment in my series of "litany hymns for times in the Christian life." I wrote the original(ish) tune, titled FORMATION, late last year, knowing the hymn (like all of them in this group) would have the "litany meter." The idea that appealed to me, as I planned this hymn,
was the concept of a Christian's education as mental and spiritual "formation." The previous hymns in this series are here, here, and here.
Jesus, Teacher sent from God,
Both in Judah and abroad,
Wield Your disciplining rod,
Even now, before us.

Help us as we, by Your will,
Study precept, practice skill,
Pass the trial, and be still
Formed to trust and serve You.

Rabbi, Your disciples yearn
Daily at Your feet to learn,
That our steps again might turn
Where Your voice directs us.

Sow in us Your living seed;
Feed and tend it as we need,
That, in spirit and in deed,
We bear fruit aplenty.

That our minds may be transformed,
Every thought by Scripture normed,
And our hearts with mercy warmed,
Master, we implore You.

To Your saving work made wise,
Let us train on You our eyes
Till You draw us to the skies:
Amen, Lord; so be it!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Long Live the Queen

Long Live the Queen
by Kate Locke
Recommended Ages: 14+

In the conclusion of the "Immortal Empire" series, an alternate-timeline version of present-day Britain teeters on the edge of a civil war between "aristos" (ruling-class vampires and werewolves, plus goblins, who have a queen of their own) and regular humans. The last time there was a human insurrection was early in the 175-year reign of her fanged majesty Queen Victoria, and it's an experience neither she nor newly-crowned goblin queen Alexandra Vardan wants to repeat. They may not have a choice about it, however, with the Human League lobbing bombs and inciting reprisals by the Halvies (half-blood vampires and werewolves) who serve the aristos. Plus, someone is still using secret laboratories to prepare a nasty surprise for the empire, if not the whole world.

Xandra, naturally, is in the thick of it. Her troubles never seem to cease, with first her lover, alpha werewolf Vexation MacLaughlin, then her father, the vampire Duke Vardan, being attacked and nearly killed by a new type of monster. Worse yet, the monster considers Xandra to be her mommy. Worst of all, this shape-changing killing machine has Queen V in her crosshairs. Stopping her will be the ultimate test of Xandra's fighting ability, the love of her lycanthropic mate, and the survival skills of everyone she holds dear.

I will frankly miss this series. After reading God Save the Queen, The Queen Is Dead, and this book, I'm a bit sad to think I may never again read the interjection "Fang me and chew the wound!" Another word that I think I will miss is "cobbleside," a splendid word that can probably have no application outside a universe in which London's Mayfair district is home to an undead subculture. It's a very, very nearby parallel dimension, one in which (for example) the American film Truman Show apparently exists; so it almost feels like home - only ever so much more dark and exciting. In fairness, I have to slap a strong Adult Content Advisory on it, especially out of consideration for Christian families. In this book, they may encounter sexual themes from what I like to call "the cutting edge of societal evolution," and I don't want them to be blindsided. Other than that, chill out and have fun!

Among Kate Locke's other works under a total of four pen-names, mostly period paranormal romances as Kathryn Smith, I am most intrigued by her Kady Cross "Steampunk Chronicles" titles, such as The Girl in the Clockwork Collar and The Girl with the Windup Heart, and her Kate Cross "Clockwork Agents" series, Heart of Brass, Touch of Steel, and Breath of Iron.