Sunday, May 3, 2015

112. Cantate Hymn

Cantate is the mass for today: the fourth Sunday after Easter, or the fifth Sunday of Easter. It takes its name (as so many Sundays do) from the introit, selected verses of Psalm 98, of which the first phrase is "Cantate domino," or "O sing unto the Lord." The epistle is James 1:16-21, and the gospel is John 16:5-15. As usual for my church-year hymns, these texts served as my starting point. The tune I have in mind is O DASS ICH TAUSEND by Kornelius Dretzel, 1731.

Sing a new song! Sing, all creation,
Which God has wondrously prepared!
His strong right arm has brought salvation,
Now to all lands and lines declared:
Christ is exalted gloriously
To judge the world with equity.

Not only strings and horns now praise Him,
But rivers, mountains, plains and seas!
Nor blood nor will of man can raise Him
Children with right to clasp His knees.
His verdict cancels all our sin;
His word implanted reads us in.

Be not deceived, dear sisters, brothers:
All gifts come down from God above,
Who changes not, nor suffers others
To share His children's fear and love;
By word and will He brought us forth,
Firstfruits of all the seed of earth.

Be quick to hear and slow to answer;
God's justice, not man's wrath, achieve;
Putting aside sin's filth and cancer,
Do you with humble hearts receive
His living word as planted seed,
Able to save your souls indeed!

No longer mourn the Lord's ascending
Far above all we sense and know;
For thus His Holy Spirit's sending
With help and clarity must flow,
Guiding us into truth, whereby
Jesus will gather us on high.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

111. Worry Hymn

I dashed off the following very derivative tune to go with the hymn below. I'm calling it NOLITE SOLLICITE.
Christians, in your daily need,
Christ's own teaching hear and heed:
Trust your loving God, nor borrow
Care and trouble from tomorrow.
He who guided Abram's seed
Through the wilderness of sorrow
Will His faithful likewise lead.

Fret not so with daily care
What to eat or drink or wear:
Does not God feed every sparrow?
Be it crust or fattest marrow,
He will answer for your share.
Though the ways and means be narrow,
He fulfills His children's prayer.

Lo, the lilies of the field
Neither flax nor linen yield;
God yet drapes them in such glory
As the king of sacred story.
Shall not we, by Jesus sealed
In His righteous robes yet gory,
Soon in triumph be revealed?

As you daily bread demand,
Leave it in your Father's hand.
Greater gifts than these He proffers
From His mercy's boundless coffers.
Wearing baptism as His brand,
Taste the grace His supper offers,
Foretaste of the promised land.
Just for kicks, here's a Latin antiphon based on the same Bible text that inspired this hymn.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Book Thief

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Recommended Ages: 12+

As of this writing the last book in the alphabetical list (by author, then title) of books I have reviewed, this multiple-award winning, longtime international bestseller hardly needs boosting from me. I, rather, needed a boost while listening to the public library's copy of the audio-book read by Alan Corduner. My throat got choked up and my eyes blurred with tears, a dangerous condition on the kinds of roads I drive daily. I'm seriously going to have to get hold of the 2013 movie adaptation featuring Geoffrey Rush, Emily (not Emma) Watson, and the music of John Williams.

The story is narrated by Death, for starters.

For the main course, it takes place in Nazi Germany during World War II, when a girl named Liesel Meminger learned to love everybody in her low-income neighborhood before losing them in an air raid.

Don't worry. I'm not actually spoiling anything, because Death does that. But while you know the outline of what's coming, the tragedy still drops on you like a bomb. A foreseeable, inevitable, but devastating explosion of grief and loss.

Also, in the midst of one of the ugliest chapters in modern civilization, it provides a moving depiction of courage, humanity, and for lack of a better word, love.

Liesel comes into the Huberman family as a foster child when her mother, implicated in a purge against Communists, has to go away. On the train ride to the Munich suburb where the Hubermans live, she witnesses the death of her six-year-old brother, a trauma that haunts her nightmares for years. She also happens to pick up, out of the snow, a mislaid book called The Grave Digger's Handbook. It proves to be the beginning of a career in book stealing made all the more remarkable by the fact that, at first, she cannot read.

Hans Huberman, or Papa, turns out to be a kind, gentle man who paints houses and plays the accordion. Rosa, or Mama, is a short, wardrobe-shaped woman with a sharp temper and a sharper tongue. Liesel finds healing in the glow of their love, aided by the cheerful antics of the yellow-haired boy next door.

Somehow the family manages to save a young Jewish man from the Holocaust without suffering a tragedy of the Anne Frank variety. But as the tide of war slowly turns against Germany, life on Himmel Street becomes increasingly perilous. Bomb scares, trouble with the Nazi party, and a string of petty crimes mingle with such joys as children's sports, young love and the pleasure of reading. In the end, it all seems to illustrate the fragility of life and the endurance of love.

Zusak is also the author of The Messenger, a.k.a. I Am the Messenger, which I have read; and of the trilogy The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe and Getting the Girl, which I have not read. Evidently a writer who never takes a word for granted or writes a thoughtless sentence, he has a knack for describing things in vivid new ways. The effect is a quirky style that seems both clear and strange at once, so when he fires an emotional missile it goes straight through your heart.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Left on Layout Room Floor

It never rains but it pours. Last week nothing was left over on the layout board after the paper came together. This week, for the Wednesday, April 29 issue of The Morgan County Press of Stover, Mo., here are the photos I shot and captioned that didn't make the cut. Mind you, I prepared multiple shots of the events I attended just in case I had more space than text to fill it. So these don't represent missed opportunities so much as bonus images that weren't needed after all.

Billy Blanks of Ozark Ready Mix Company, Inc. shows his truck to Stacey Starr’s fourth grade class during elementary career day Friday, April 24 at Morgan County R-I school in Stover.

Co-Mo Electric workers Bob Fisher, left, and Chad Ledbetter demonstrate a bucket truck for Lena Menning’s first grade class during elementary career day Friday, April 24 at Morgan County R-I school in Stover.

Firefighters Bruce Berg, left, and Jim O’Reilly give Jessica Ehlers’ third grade class a fire safety talk during elementary career day Friday, April 24 at Morgan County R-I school in Stover.

Scott Bauer of the Stover Milling Company demonstrates how to work an auger truck for Michelle Keener’s second grade class during elementary career day Friday, April 24 at Morgan County R-I school in Stover.

Steve Eckhoff takes a question from Christopher Sharp as Rosie Layne’s and Stacy Luttrell’s fifth grade classes visit the Hogan Transports truck during elementary career day Friday, April 24 at Morgan County R-I school in Stover.

Stover Quality Quilting, owned by Vi Dale, second from right, hosted the quilt show at Trail’s End Western Heritage Days Friday, April 24 in the Commercial Building of the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. Members of the Trail’s End Quilt Show Committee, shown from left, are Pamela Young and Theresa Gerber of Sedalia, Dale, Dana Page of Sedalia, and not pictured, Connie Kleinschmidt of La Monte. The Stover Quality Quilting booth is visible at the far right.

The students’ first priority is loading up on pizza as Project Prom starts Saturday night, April 25 at the Morgan County R-I school in Stover.

Diners come and go at the Stover Fire Department’s hog roast Sunday, April 26 in the lower level of the Stover Community Center.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

110. Jubilate Hymn

Jubilate is the mass for the third Sunday after Easter, otherwise known as the fourth Sunday of Easter, otherwise known on the post-Vatican II liturgical calendar as Good Shepherd Sunday. In the historic lectionary it is the first of four consecutive Sundays in which the Gospel lesson is a non-sequential selection from John 16, in this case the "A little while" passage from verse 16 through "In that day you will ask Me no question" at the beginning of verse 23. The Epistle is 1 Peter 2:11-20 and the Introit is at least the opening couple verses of Psalm 66. The tune I have in mind for this hymn is the underutilized chorale MAG ICH UNGLÜCK NICHT WIDERSTAHN.

"A little while," said Christ in grace,
"Your heart may mourn,
Eyes all forlorn with bearing
The hidden presence of My face.
Rejoice to know
I in your woe am sharing;
Though while you weep
The world may smile,
A little while
Again and I'll
Joy yet more deep come bearing."

Lord, to this promise help us cling
When lust assails;
When our strength fails, uphold us!
Help us bear, too, the unjust sting
Of chains and whips
And sneering lips that scold us.
Our hearts subdue
To serve men well,
That they may tell
In whom You dwell,
Till safely You enfold us.

A shout of joy, all creatures, raise;
Praise Him with zeal
Whose foes must kneel, revering
His name and works with songs of praise.
Our steps He guides,
Through ground that slides safe steering.
When ev'ry trial
Has well refined
Our heart and mind,
Pure joy we'll find
In but a while appearing.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Dark at the End

The Dark at the End
by F. Paul Wilson
Recommended Ages: 15+

It's really awkward to read the first six books in a series and then skip to the fifteenth book. I usually refuse to continue reading a series when I have to skip over even one book. But this was ridiculous - skipping from The Haunted Air to this book, in publication order the last novel in the Repairman Jack series. I caught on pretty well once things got moving, though I still feel a sharp need to catch up on Gateways, Crisscross, Infernal, Harbingers, Bloodline, By the Sword, Ground Zero and Fatal Error and bridge the gap in my reading of Repairman Jack.

There was another awkwardness at the end of the book. Partly this is an artifact of the Repairman Jack series being intertwined with the Adversary Cycle, of which the only book I have read is its second installment The Tomb, which also spun off as the first book in this series. Though the entire Adversary Cycle including its conclusion in Nightworld pre-date the publication of the Repairman Jack series (excepting The Tomb), Nightworld apparently contains the conclusion of this series as well. At least, I hope so. From Legacies to this book, Wilson brought forth a Repairman Jack novel every year from 1998 to 2011 and hasn't written once since, having moved on to other projects. So it doesn't seem likely a more satisfying conclusion to the cliff-hanger at the end of this book is going to turn up. And the ending, pardon the spoiler, looks pretty grim.

If, like me, you've been tuned out since The Haunted Air, you might be surprised to find this story opens with the world in imminent peril of being taken over by a hostile cosmic force called the Adversary or the Otherness. Its representative on earth, the virtually indestructible Rasalom, also known as The One, has come close to swiping our world from under the protection of the Ally, but he has one more trick up his sleeve and this one might really do the job after all. As Jack's power grows as the heir to the Ally's formerly-immortal human guardian, he sees a unique opportunity to take Rasalom out of the equation. But his one chance depends on a teenage mother of an only part-human baby to stay on the script while Jack's back is turned, so when she inevitably messes up the plan, tragedy and horror ensue that will leave the world teetering on the verge of a hideous change.

The reason I broke my own rule against skipping books in a series (let alone eight of them) is that I needed an audiobook to fill the gap while the library was repairing a scratched disk in Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, which I had really planned to be reading at the time. I had to grab something quick because the library was closing and I didn't see anything else that interested me on short notice. Plus, alas, it turns out my community's library doesn't hold any of the earlier books in the series. Happily, the Zusak book is ship-shape and playing in my car stereo now. Meanwhile, I enjoyed Christopher Price's audiobook performance of this book. I believe I've heard him read some of the earlier books in the series. Simply put, his voice is Repairman Jack's voice in my mind's ear.

Besides catching up on the books I missed, there are more hours of Repairman Jack enjoyment in store for me. My local library does hold audiobooks of a prequel trilogy about "Repairman Jack, the Early Years," titled Cold City, Dark City and Fear City. There is also a trilogy of young adult Jack books, Secret Histories, Secret Circles and Secret Vengeance. And of course, there's still the six-book Adversary Cycle, starting with The Keep, which in a way I've already skipped in another inadvertent slip of my principles. Oh, well. Sometimes you take your experiences in the order life deals them to you. The experience of this book, though out of context, out of sequence, and out of desperation, was so fraught with suspense and creepy-crawlies that if I see another book by F. Paul Wilson, I won't be able to resist.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

109. Prayer Hymn

Dear Lord, bend down your ear
In mercy full and free;
Our meek requests with favor hear
And answer faithfully.

For You are Love indeed;
Your children in all lands
Rely on You for every need,
Safe in Your trusty hands.

In Jesus' name we pray,
Who pleads for us above;
He gave a form of words to say
And bade us try Your love.

He who with You is one
Prayed often and with will;
If then our pattern is Your Son,
Our case is surer still.

In His high priestly prayer
He charged us to believe
All that by faith in Him we dare
To ask, we will receive.

His first word from the Tree
Begged pardon for His foes;
So help us answer lovingly
Men’s hateful words and blows.

Lord, exercise our trust
As, wrestling with our care,
We seize and hold Your honor just
And cling to You in prayer.

Lord, hear when feeble groans
Are all our hearts can speak;
Then let the Spirit's winsome tones
Assist the poor and weak.

Lord, lest we fail to ask
And thereby fail to gain,
Help us persist in this sweet task,
Nor let us toil in vain.

Our hearts by practice turn
From selfish wants and plans;
For all men's welfare let them burn,
All rulers and all lands.

From what is base and mean,
Lord, turn our hearts' desire;
To higher goods, though yet unseen,
Devote their fragrant fire.

And since You paid with blood
To free us from sin's snare,
What that is fruitful, lovely, good,
Would You withhold through prayer?

Unhindered by our guilt,
For which our Savior paid,
Our confidence on Him is built;
Our cares on Him are laid.

So, Father, hear our voice
When on Your name we call;
For by Your good and gracious choice
You gladly give us all.