Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Mid-Week Music #9 - Lift Up the Suff'ring Symbol



This time, I'll be giving you a song I had in my head after tonight's Bible study at our church. We're going through the Ten Commandments at the moment, and what Martin Luther wrote about them in his Large Catechism. I think that's what it is, the Large Catechism. I will correct it if I am wrong.

Today, we talked about the First Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." In the Lutheran Church, however, that First Commandment also includes the Second Commandment: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images, neither of anything in heaven nor in the earth nor in the waters beneath the earth, neither shalt thou worship them."

Obviously, this doesn't mean we should never make pictures or paintings or any kind of artwork. The First and Second Commandments together mean we shall worship the Lord our God and Him alone, and we shall worship Him in the way He tells us. For example, those people in Exodus who made the golden calf--they didn't say it was a new god. They thought they were worshipping the same God that brought them out of Egypt.

Worshipping God through images doesn't work. Sorry, but no. That was the main problem with relics among the Roman Catholics of Luther's day. We can only pray to God: nothing and nobody else will do. The only intercessor we have is Jesus Christ. So the 'images' we make--whether paintings or sculptures or even those talking pictures I've heard so much about--should be made to glorify God, just as we are meant to glorify God. And to teach and inspire others, as well.

Iconoclasm, oddly enough, has been somewhat rampant in the South recently. To be sure, it's of a different nature, but it is the eradication of images in any case. I will be putting up a more detailed post about it. Perhaps in a day or two? For the moment, though, here is the Michael Card song I had in my head: Lift Up the Suff'ring Symbol.




They grew tired of bread from heaven
And of Moses and of God
And longed to live the life of slavery once again
So they muttered and they grumbled
And they whimpered and they whined
With each faithless word sank deeper into sin

He took the pen of pain once more
To write upon their hearts
The lesson they had been so slow to learn
And writhing in the sand, the fiery serpents came to call
With a holy message and a bite that burned

(chorus)
Lift up the suff'ring symbol
And place it high upon a pole
Tell the children to look up and be made whole

So Moses made a metal snake
And nailed it to a pole
Sent out the saving word so they would know
That the symbol of their suffering was now
The focus of their faith
And with a faithful glance, the healing power would flow

In time the brazen serpent became
An idol in the land
And they left the living God to worship clay
When they forgot their suffering soon true faith had disappeared
And so some idolize a brazen cross today

(chorus 2x)

***

(chorus 2x)
Tell the children to look up and be made whole


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Workings of a Wordsmith: Scene One



Today, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into some of the things I'm writing. If you weren't aware, I plan on being a professional wordsmith--thus the page entitled "Writing Projects". Unfortunately, I forgot to put anything on there when I posted it. Oops. But I promise I'll get to that soon. For the moment, here's part of what should be there.

Right now, I'm working on two things: a novel and a novella. Neither, at the moment, has any official title. (Typical me, very typical.) The novel is the first in a series, which is called Hanesion House. I haven't been working on it as much lately, however. That's due to my working on the novella.

This novella is for a writing contest called "Five Poisoned Apples", for Snow White retellings. At first, I had no ideas, though I wanted very much to enter. Then I was swamped with ideas, and wasn't sure which one to do first! But finally, I've gotten it down to two. The one I'm working on now is the one I'm definitely going to enter in the contest.

I began the project on the first of the month, and finished it... I can't remember when exactly, but I think it was about two weeks later. Maybe even less. I don't know, but that was the fastest I've ever finished any writing project in my life. I'm in the editing stages now. And I'm planning to send it to Rooglewood Press (the publishing company) sometime in the first week of September.

This retelling is a science-fiction story, hopefully in the vein of something good. Perhaps Space Opera*, perhaps something else. In any case, this is a story that excites me very much. Brave heroes, beleaguered princesses--mystery, suspense, some bits of action here and romance there. Hopefully though, the story itself will do a better job of getting your interest than that brief... would it even be called an overview?

Anyhow, I would appreciate it if you were to give your thoughts on my workings. Now, if you don't mind, I'll set forth a scene for you--the very first one--and you can see what you think. I may or may not be posting the rest of the story here on my blog, so enjoy the cliffs while you can: you may be hanging onto the side of one soon.

Apologies: there are still one or two unfinished parts lurking about. I've put them in bold text so you can see them better. Sorry!

*Star Wars is an example of Space Opera, if any of you are uncertain of the term.


     "Starlog 27.3, or, uh, like us Earthlings say it, August 1, 2317, on a Tuesday. My twenty-seventh adventure." Carter Prince sighed and rubbed his hands together. "It's odd how I've been counting time by how many adventures I've had. It feels like it's been forever since I've been home.
     "Speaking of which, how are things back in Virginia? You still in charge of the American Alliance, Dad? I'll bet Mom's still trying to convince you to [do something]. Oh, and let Luke know I said happy birthday! You've gotta transmit the images soon." He sighed. "I really miss you guys. All this adventuring is exciting beyond belief, and I do a lot of good. A lot of good. But... it's pretty lonesome out here."
     He paused. Then, grinning, he got up out of his chair. "Say, you haven't forgotten me, have you? Carter Prince--adventurer, protector of the innocent, and the first Intergalactic Knight?" He chuckled. "Remember that, Dad? You gave me that idea, back when I was younger than Luke. Now, I'm doing it for real, sword and all. I--" He was interrupted by a white flash outside the window, directly at the front of his ship.
     "Whoa! What the heck was--okay, you know what? I'll get back to you. Love you." Carter turned off his recorder and started pushing buttons. "Computer, damage report."
     "No damage sustained."
     "Then what was--" Before he could continue, he noticed a sound like heavy breathing nearby. He listened for a while, trying to discern the source. Then the voice, half-whispering and shaky, spoke. It was the voice of a young woman.
     "I don't know if there's anybody out there, listening. But I--I can't bear it anymore, I can't!"
     "Are you all right?" Carter asked.
     "I can't stand having no one to talk to, and I... have to tell someone about all this, even if I can't hear them." Carter then realized what was going on: this lady, whoever she was, had recorded and sent out this message. He listened intently. "The Droids that watch me just say it's only silly dreams and fears, over and over. They never listen. No one does."
     She sighed shakily. "I've had... every night, I have these dreams. And every time, it's the same one. Or almost. They start out... that's one of the strange things, because they don't start out the way they end. I walk in a forest, a beautiful forest. Almost unlike anything I'd seen before. It looked almost..." she paused, considering her words, "...it seems magical. I don't even know what the word means, but it sounds--well, somehow right. I walk through it, in beautiful clothes, and I hold an...an apple. A very red apple, shining in light. Like a jewel, almost."
     The voice paused, and Carter could hear her breathing, which was getting more rapid and shaky by the second. "Then, as I stare at it, it gets larger as if it's coming up toward my face. And then it... the apple disappears like fire, and everything flashes into darkness. I'm... down and down, I fall. I feel as though it will never end. Then--" She cried out, and Carter jumped toward the sound, and his hand to the sword at his side, only to remember with frustration that he couldn't do anything.
     "I jerk to a stop, and I feel as if I'm dangling on a string in the middle of the darkness. I blink, and I'm... suddenly, I find myself in a beautiful case. Of glass, and gold. There are flowers around me, but they are all dead. This place... yes, it is beautiful, but it's a tomb. I will be trapped forever... I must get out, I must! I struggle to get out, but I can't... move. Not at all.
     "Then I look out of the glass case, and there is... someone is out there, outside the case. Or something is there. I feel its eyes on me, staring at me, and I squirm, trying to escape. But I can't even blink or look away. Then it... I hear it laughing at me, laughing wild and cruel, and then there are eyes of fire, and I--I can't--ahh!" She screamed. Carter could not help but slam his fist on the dashboard.
     "No! I will not let--"
     "Then I... wake up, alone in the dark, in utter silence." The voice let out a little sob. "No one is there to help me. The only thing I ever see when I wake up is the stars, hovering in the darkness. But even those aren't there all the time. The Droids don't understand, they say it's an irrational fear. They don't do a thing. It doesn't help.
     "And then, there's... when I'm awake, there's something from my dream. I..."  She said something more, but it could not be heard: the message was fading in and out. "I can't ... much longer ... "
     "No! Computer, trace the message, quickly!"
     "Please, if there's ... if anybody is out ... really out there ... help me ... only hope ... please, help me!" The voice fell silent. Carter stared at the dashboard, open-mouthed.
     "Trace successful."
     He sighed and blinked slowly. "Show me."
     "Showing coordinates. Orders?"
     Carter stood silently for a few moments. "Computer, set a course for..." He looked closer at the information. "Set a course for the Septimon System."
     "Affirmative, sir." Carter straightened and put his hands behind his back.
     "Don't worry, my lady," he murmured. "I'm on my way."

***

Well, how's that for an introduction? Now y'all have met Carter Prince, and have embarked on a quest to help this mysterious girl. Do you plan to follow him all the way through? If so, please let me know! What are your thoughts on the first scene?

Also, I have a sort of idea for the title. However, I'm not sure about it. It seems it might work. Any suggestions on that wise would be greatly appreciated, as well!

My idea:
Princess of the Seventh Star

Please leave all your thoughts about my story in the comments below!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mid-Week Music #8 - Make 'Em Laugh



Okay, today I'm going to give you some laughs. And if you're anything like me, you will be laughing. A lot. You see, recently, my family and I watched the classic musical comedy, Singin' in the Rain. It's about an actor (Don Lockwood/Gene Kelly) from the Silent Era of Film, who--with the help of an old friend and a new--must transition to Talkies, along with his shrill and shrewish costar (Lina Lamont/Jean Hagen). This song is one of my favorite numbers in the movie.

It is funny how I go from noble old anthems, to wonderful Christian songs, to incredible prog rock, to hilarious numbers by old comedians and jolly dwarves, and then back again. It's a whirlwind, a roller coaster, whatever you might call it. And quite random, too. But, in the words of a very wise person, "Jokes as well as justice come in with speech."

Take it away, Cosmo! Make 'em laugh!




Cosmo:
Don, the world is so full of a number of things
I'm sure we should all be as happy as...
But are we? No. (slam)
Definitely no. (slam)
Positively no! (slam!)
DECIDEDLY NO! (slam!!)
Uh-uh. (shakes head)
Short people have long faces
And long people have short faces
Big people have little humour
And little people have no humour at all

(Don laughs)

Cosmo:
And in the words of that immortal bard, Samuel J. Snodgrass,
(dramatically) As he was about to be led to the guillotine...

Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh
Don'tcha know everyone wants to laugh? HA HA!
My dad said 'Be an actor, my son
'But be a comical one!'
They'll be standing in lines
For those old honky-tonk monkey-shines
Now, you could study Shakespeare and be quite elite
And you could charm the critics and have nothing to eat:
Just slip on a banana peel, the world's at your feet!
Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh!

Make--
Make 'em laugh
Don'tcha know everyone wants to laugh?
My grandpa said 'Go out and tell 'em a joke
'But give it plenty of hoke!'
Make 'em roar, make 'em scream
Take a fall, butt a wall, split a seam
You start off by pretending you're a dancer with grace
You wiggle 'til they're giggling all over the place
And then you get a great big custard pie in the face
Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh!

...
Make 'em laugh
Don'tcha... all the... what?
My dad...
(attempts to fix his face)
...
They'll be standing in lines
(getting quieter)
For those old honky-tonk monkey-shines...

***

Make 'em laugh--
Make 'em laugh--
Don'tcha know everyone--
Ah-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha!
Ah-ha-ha-HA-ha, HA-ha!
Ah-ha-ha-HA-ha, ha-ha-ha!
Make 'em laugh--ha-ha!
Make 'em laugh--HA-ha!
Make 'em laugh--HA-HA!
Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh
Make 'em LAAAUUuugh...
(passes out on the floor)


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mid-Week Music #7 - Ways of a Fool



This week, I'll be introducing (some of) you to an artist by the name of Neal Morse. He's a very talented fellow: in fact, he and his band are practically on the same level of Kansas when it comes to skill. This song is from the album Similitude of a Dream, a concept album based on The Pilgrim's Progress. I'm pretty sure most of you have read it. Well, unless you've gone to public school or most colleges. They don't like that kind of masterpiece in there.

The reason I am posting this particular song is not actually what you might think. I have not encountered any worldly wise-men or fools lately. I have in the past, but not recently. Actually, I'm posting this because it's the song my younger sister picked: her birthday fell on a Wednesday, and I let her choose the song. So anyway, Abi, Happy 9th Birthday! May you never fall into the ways of a fool!

WARNING: song is very catchy. It WILL get stuck in your head.




Walking straight ahead
Wondering in the way I wander
My feet are feeling fine...

What's that up ahead?
Someone coming up the way...
Ay-ay

He is a worldly man
When I tell him my plans
He says:
What are you doing?
You're simple as pudding
It's not worth pursuing
I know the way out!

(chorus)
All the ways of a fool
They are right in his own eyes
Go on back, keep your cool
Don't you miss the city lights
And those worldly delights?
(Trust me...)
I know I'm right

Reason is the rule
Logic is a mighty Fortress
And life is nothing more

Perception is the truth
Why not make it what you want?

I'm a successful man
My offer is easy
Invent your reality
Made-up morality
Legal legality
Second to none!

(chorus)

***

(chorus)
All the ways of a fool
They are right in his own eyes
Go on back, keep your cool
Don't you miss the city lights
And those worldly delights
Trust me
I know... I'm...
Ri-i-ight...

***

I think I'll go the way
Walking with the worldly wise man

I'll just change it up a bit
And go the more logical way

Because it seems good to me
To live a life that's free from care
And my new reality
I will speak into the air...

And life is awaiting me
I'll learn what they're teaching me
And surely my destiny will follow

Forget all about that dream
I'll find a place in between
And just take a turn-about tomorrow...

**


Monday, August 14, 2017

A Song for Harry (And a Word or Two)



Two nights ago (maybe three), I finished it. I finished watching the Harry Potter series.

To say I have mixed feelings would be the understatement of the wizarding world. My mind went from "Awww, that's so sweet" to "You JERK!" to "Whoa, now I get it!" to "How could you do this to me, JK? Why?!" to "YESSS!!! Finally!" to "Whaaaaat? That makes zero sense!"

So... very strange experience, huh?

I liked it far better than Part One of Deathly Hallows, where Harry did nothing but camp out in the wilderness with angstyness. Sorry if I spoiled the movie for you. But I think it was a (mostly) great end to a series that comes up with ways to keep my attention. And I think Miss Rowling enjoys lobbing those surprises at the heads of us readers.

I have much to say on the matter of Harry Potter. But that, for the moment, must wait. I have limited time to write. So I'll briefly address one thing that has really been annoying me for awhile, but that was dealt with in the last movie: Harry's 'hero's journey'. He doesn't really undertake it.

To be sure, he defeats several enemies (particularly in the first five stories), but Harry doesn't really do much to become worthy of his title of Chosen One. What, you think it all comes to you just like that? Honestly though, one time he accomplished something literally by luck. I'm not joking: watch or read the stories. Of course, this being the last one, Harry has to finish this, or everyone shall die. I will talk more about Harry's progression, what there is of it, at length another time.


Back in... I think it was May... I had just watched the Half-Blood Prince for the first time. That night, newly-made memories and imagination met to create inspiration. That inspiration ensnared my mind and utterly refused to let me go. So I dashed into the library to write it down. The words I wrote turned into these lyrics. I had most of it written down that night, then finished it the next day.

It doesn't have a title yet. I also haven't worked out the tune yet. Someday, I'm going to do a Mid-Week Music post about it, once I make a video of it. This song is for those Christians who have adopted a worldview of quietism, who just pine away waiting for Jesus to come back and take them away. It's also about Harry Potter. It's a call to arms. You're a wizard, Harry: now act like it.


You're living in a war zone
And you're sitting on your hands
You're still just goofing off instead
Of making battle plans

You're snogging and you're shuffling
And not sticking to your guns
Come on!
You are the Chosen Ones

It's high time you get out there
And learn just what to do
It's time to fight
For what is right
Give You-Know-Who
His devil's due

Take up now your weapons
This is a war we're in
Why are you still sitting there?
You've got a world to win

If you're waiting for the End Times
You've got a while to go
If you're gonna live in this old world
You need to learn and grow

You're in the Master's Army
Don't you get it, son? You're on
Take up the Hero's Journey
Through darkness into dawn

Our enemies are dangerous
They don't mess around
Come on!
Now learn to stand your ground

It's high time you get out there
And learn just what to do
It's time to fight
For what is right
Give You-Know-Who
His devil's due

***

When our enemies steal a little more freedom every day
When ones we love are casualties and ones we trust betray
Know that you've a Mighty Fortress
And you'll never stand alone
A hope for us to cling to
In this world that's made of stone

***



Now make your spirits light up
Like a fireworks display
With a sword to slay the Serpent
And a map to show the way

Lumos in a dark world
Hope to all who truly hear
Come on!
Our destiny draws near

It's high time you get out there
It's the only thing to do
It's might for right
For truth and light
Beat You-Know-Who
His reign is through!

Learn from the Greatest Hero
The self-sacrifice He gave
Why are you still sitting there?
You've got a world to save

Why are you still sitting there?
You've got a world to save


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mid-Week Music #6 - That's What Bilbo Baggins Hates!



Today, I've been quite busy, what with schoolwork, writing projects, and sundry other things. But I think I can manage a Mid-Week Music post.

If I really think about it, there could be lots of reasons to post this particular song: I've recently read that part of the Hobbit, I watched a TV show featuring Martin Freeman aka Bilbo Baggins last night, I know most of the lyrics by heart and it's a fun song. But honestly, the real reason is because I'm very busy, and feel like muttering 'confusticate and bebother' right about now. I'm beginning to realize how Bilbo felt, and--yep, there's Mommy calling me to come help with supper!

So, without further ado, here is "Blunt the Knives", alternatively known as "That's What Bilbo Baggins Hates!"






Bilbo:
And can you not do that? You'll blunt them!

Bofur:
Ooh! D'you hear that, lads? He says we'll blunt the knives!

Kili:
Blunt the knives, bend the forks

Fili:
Smash the bottles and burn the corks

All:
Chip the glasses and crack the plates...
That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!

(instruments join in)

Cut the cloth, tread on the fat
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat
Pour the milk on the pantry floor...
Splash the wine on every door!

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl
Pound them up with a thumping pole
And when you've finished, if any are whole...
Send them down the hall to roll!

***

That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!


PS: My deepest and most profound apologies for the serious note on which the video ends. Thorin no longer has any conception of timing. Or being on time, for that matter.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mid-Week Music #5 - Byzantium



This week I present to you a song by a band called Kansas. You've probably heard of them. If not, they are a prog-rock sort of band, with almost classical sounding songs, sometimes. They're one of my favorite bands. You can be sure there will be more of their songs on Mid-Week Music in the future. This is a beautiful song: one of their best, and that's saying a lot.

It also happens to be a song I get in my head whenever I do my Western Civilization classes for the Ron Paul Curriculum. (You will get to read some of the things I've written for them sooner or later). Anyway, this song was particularly stuck in my mind today. It is called... Byzantium.




***

City resting on a hill
Can your walls repel the ti-ide of change?
Under Panticrater's rule
Did your golden domes reveal
The frailty of the consequence?
The conqueror was real

Where the emperor once reigned
Only shadows of the glories remain
No one sings your plaintive song
Of the Cantechian strain
Echoing through heaven's gate
Too lovely to sustain

(chorus)
We're looking back to see your frescoed walls
Where is the road that takes us to
Byzantium?

***

Once your borders had no end
And your dream was like a shi-ining light
To the nations you surround
Did your golden domes reveal
The frailty of the consequence?
The conqueror was real

We're looking back to see your frescoed walls
Where is the road that takes us to Byzantium?

(chorus)
We're looking back to see your frescoed walls
Where is the road that takes us to
Byzantium?

***