A Writing Seed: Unwanted Memories

Sometimes I have small passages pop into my head, or as I call them writing seeds. Small thoughts that have the potential to germinate into something more. Here is one such writing seed, which might inspire you.


“Thank you for your service,” the young boy said to me as he held out his hand. I shook his hand because it was the right thing to do; because I understood what he was trying to do. He wanted to say that he appreciated the time I had spent in Vietnam in the ’50’s.

What he didn’t realise, was that I had no desire to think of those times. I thought about them enough. I certainly didn’t want to be thanked or receive commendations for the distasteful things I had to do over there. I didn’t want to be defined by them, either.

My country had called, and I had answered that call. I didn’t regret what we had to do, but I’ll never be happy about having to do it. Even if we had defeated the Viet Cong, we still wouldn’t have been victors. Not really. There are no winners in war among the soldiers who fought it. I’d lost a lot of good mates, and left some of the best parts of me on the battlefield.

Omnibus Update

Coding

I’ve just released v0.3.0 of MyWorkTracker which includes import and export functionality and a host of small usability and interface tweaks. I’ve also completely re-written the user guide. You can download and read about it, starting here.

The Crossing

Reading

The Crossing by Michael Connelly. This is the second Harry Bosch book that I’ve read. (In the timeline it actually comes before The Wrong Side of Goodbye which I have previously read).

It was an enjoyable read. Harry Bosch, ex-LAPD, crosses the line by working for his defence lawyer brother-in-law. Though initially sceptical of the client’s innocence Bosch is determined to find out the truth, wherever it may lead. It ends up to be a much larger crime than just a rape and brutal murder.

One aspect of Connelly’s writing that I admire is his three dimensional characters that live in the real world. Although the case consumes a lot of Bosch’s focus, it doesn’t force out other things that are important to him. He still thinks about his daughter and his other relationships. There is always more going on in Bosch’s life than just the main plot of the story line. Connelly beautifully balances those other interests’ making them both non-trivial and non-distracting.

Bosch also lives in the our world: he takes a ride in a Tesla driven by an Uber driver. Small touches like that make the novel feel more grounded, more plausible.

Changing speeds and to a completely different book, Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill.

Though written forty years ago and so is in older language, Ravenhill takes no prisoners as he lays out the depth of calling, and the failings of the church.

With fire he calls the faithful back to intimacy with God passion for the lost.

Relating to 1 Cor 4:13 he wrote:

Any man who has so assessed himself “filth of the earth” has no ambitions – and so has nothing to be jealous about. He has no reputation – and so has nothing to fight about. He has no possessions – and therefore nothing to worry about. He has no “rights” – so therefore he cannot suffer any wrongs. Blessed state! He is already dead – so no one can kill him. In such a state of mind and spirit, can we wonder that the apostles “turned the world upside down”?

Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill

Writing

I haven’t done much writing lately. All of my spare time has been going into coding.

The other day I began to read my own book, Vengeance Will Come. With fresh eyes I spotted a lot of things which I’d now do differently. Whether it is because my style has evolved or just distance from the project I can’t say. I suspect both, and I can do better. Consequently I have removed it for sale. I’m not sure what this means for it’s future. I could re-publish it for sale on Amazon, or release it on another platform. Or just continue writing the series for fun. Many options, and no decision has been made yet.

I am, however, going to start re-working on my faith-based novelette, Escape from Hell. It was nearly complete and it’s time I bring it to completion.

And finally, for your listening pleasure, a song that has been on hard-repeat for the last few hours:

Rend Collective – “Rescuer (Good News)”

May you have a great weekend.

Book Review: Persepolis Rising

Although my recent review for book 6 of The Expanse series was scathing, it was an aberration in an otherwise fantastic series. Book 7, Persepolis Rising, returns to the adventure and style of the earlier novels.

Book 7 is set approximately thirty years after book 6. It is the first and substantial time-gap in the series. So why jump time? Only the authors known as James S.A. Corey can answer their motivations, but I’m happy to think on the subject for a few minutes.

In most of the writing I’ve done, I have a ‘fast forward x period’ too. It’s not an aspect of my own writing I particularly like, but it’s sometimes necessary. For me, it’s when I then want to show the reader the flow-on effects of an event without having a 600 page tome. It can also be about skipping the boring bits.

At the end of book 5 Earth has been bombarded by asteroids. Book 6 explores that theme a little more, but it’s already evident before that humanity is teetering on the brink of collapse. (As a disabled man, I understand that feeling well). Everything is in death throes; infrastructure is going to rapidly fall apart and the environment is on life-support…

All efforts are going to be trying to survive, and maybe help others that can be saved. It’s going to be pretty darn depressing without much happiness to go around. Even if the characters pull-off miraculous feats of heroism, nearly everyone is still going to die. It’s not so much a downward slide for humanity, more like a free-fall. That is a very hard context to write in (not to mention, read).

What about post-apocalyptic stories, they exist, right? Honestly I haven’t read many (my choice rather than a lack of availability). The only one I can recall is World War Z, which is a collection of short stories about the zombie apocalypse. With such limited reading, I can only fallback to television. In those stories it’s normally a band of survivors working together to stay alive… not pockets of humanity separated by millions of light years of empty space. Perhaps that is rich fodder for story telling for some, but I struggle to see how it would work.

I really enjoyed book 7 for how it portrayed that 30-year gap. This book is a great guide on how to do the passage of time well.

At the macro-level (in society):

  • For children born today, the Belt was the thing that tied all humanity together. Semantic drift and political change.

(Which is to say, the meaning and importance of things change. Semantic drift is also a lovely phrase, reminding me of how dunes gradually drift over decades).

In the age of inanimate objects:

  • but an atmospheric landing in a ship as old as the Rocinante wasn’t the trivial thing it had once been. Age showed up in unexpected ways. Things that had always worked before failed. It was something you prepared for as much as you could.

  In how character’s think and act:

  • Bobbie patted the words as she walked by and climbed onto the ladder lift that ran up the center of the ship. The Roci was at a very gentle 0.2 g braking burn, and there had been a time when riding the lift instead of climbing the ladder would have felt like admitting defeat, even if the ship was burning ten times that hard. But for the last couple years Bobbie’s joints had been giving her trouble, and proving to herself that she could make the climb had stopped mattering as much. It seemed to her that the real sign you were getting old was when you stopped needing to prove you weren’t getting old.
  • Decades of living and working in the same place meant you never had to ask for someone to pass the salt at galley time.
  • “My feet hurt,” Amos said. “Kind of all the time now. Glad these Belters keep the rotation at a third of a g.”
  • Bobbie felt the pressure of time slipping away like she was watching a door close, with her on the wrong side of it.

And then there are the characters I’ve grown to cherish, especially Amos:

  • It was easy to forget sometimes the depth of focus and intelligence behind Amos’ cheerful violence.
  • Amos’ voice had gone so flat, it might have been a badly written computer simulation of him. He was checking out of the conversation.
  • He didn’t need to see the amiable smile [on Amos’ face] to know it was there, and how little it meant.
  • From the way they talked, Holden could almost believe that they wouldn’t kill each other, given the chance. Almost, but not enough that he was sorry to be there. Maybe Katria really didn’t hold a grudge about the fight that Amos had started. And maybe Amos wasn’t spoiling to start another one. Or maybe the bomb was the most stable thing in the cart.

And Holden:

  • Holden was smiling like a salesman, as if his radiant goodwill could warm up every other interaction in the room.
  • The Holden she knew was a guy who drank too much coffee, got enthusiastic about weird things, and always seemed quietly worried that he would compromise his own idiosyncratic and unpredictable morality.
  • He didn’t look like anything more than an old ice bucker with a little too much curiosity and too little impulse control.

I also liked the beginning of the book which had this hooking quote early on:

“If you want to create a lasting, stable social order,” Duarte said, “only one person can ever be immortal.”

…and the way the book ended, where it wasn’t all a neat bow. (Which is unusual, and refreshing, for the series).

If you’ve read Persepolis Rising, I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on it too.

Focus off Pain

Back pain tends to upset whatever plans you have – whether that be world domination or just mowing the lawn. It comes like an uninvited guest and stays well beyond it’s welcome. You could kick it out, if only you could get off the couch…

I’ve spent the last few days in pain unable to do much. Even as a disabled man, I’ve found much I’d taken a lot for granted. It isn’t until you lose something you realise how valuable it is. Simple actions: rolling over in bed, standing up without pain, walking… heck, even being able to put your socks on is something to be thankful for.

It’s only been a few days, though with the weekend prior also affected it’s felt longer. It’s surprising how quickly those physical impediments started to dampen my mental disposition. I have a strong work ethic, and not being able to work – even for a few days – just felt wrong. I definitely have sympathy for those who are debilitated by constant pain and have had their plans and dreams significantly derailed because of it. Or even those who are out of work through no fault of their own.

It’s sometimes harder to do than say, but I’ve always found it’s better to focus on what you have, rather than what you miss. As my back pain recedes, there’s much more to be thankful of. And without the pain, I wouldn’t have recognised it afresh.

That’s not to say that all pain is gain. Sometimes that pain is horrendous; I’m not meaning to down-play that. The silver-lining is sometimes incredibly hard to find. But I do know that focusing on pain, you will be sucked into a vortex of pain, depression and bitterness.

Choose to find the things that are good in life… and focus on that. A healthy mind has a diet of joy, not sadness.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

Book Review: Babylon’s Ashes

In this blog post I continue with my book reviews of the fantastic The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey. This post contains spoilers but I recommend you still read on, at least a few paragraphs.

As it happens I accidentally read book seven (Persepolis Rising) before book six Babylon’s Ashes. Although I’m a huge fan of the series, I thoroughly encourage you to repeat my initial mistake (i.e. skip Babylon’s Ashes entirely).

It is quite telling that only once or twice in book seven I wondered if I’d missed something. Even then it was an… ‘okay maybe I forgot a character’s name…‘. Missing the book didn’t leave a huge gaping void; more like something I could forget about by the time I turned the page. If you skip book 6, you won’t miss much. (Although the book did score 4.5 stars on Amazon, so maybe this is just my opinion). I felt that nothing much happens and compared to the other books it’s a bit of a yawn-fest. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting insights I have to share about the book.

Unlike other books in the series, this book has a massive 19 Points-of-View (that is characters through whom we see the world, or in this case, the universe). The additional POVs did not improve my enjoyment of the story. Of the 55 chapters, Holden had 11, Pa had 10 and Filip had 7. That means there is a heck of a lot of characters who didn’t get many chapters. That left me feeling disconnected from the story and the characters. It gave me the unsatisfying ‘opportunity’ to spend time with characters I didn’t know or didn’t care about. It was time I’d rather spend with the characters I’ve grown to like throughout the series.

I think my opening paragraph shows what I think about this book: it shouldn’t exist. Unfortunately, I feel it weakens the series overall. If the plan behind so many POVs was to show the scale of devastation or the alternate perceptions of reality through the Sol system, a series of short stories would have been better. Too many POVs, especially with characters I had no affinity with.

I’m torn about the antagonist. In some respects the villain is good – Marco is a psychopath, which is shown repeatedly by the way he treats those around him as tools that serve his end-goals. And he is always ‘performing’ for the benefit of those around him. Those behaviours are consistent with sociopathy, which is why I lean toward the ‘like’ opinion, somewhat.

On the negative side, Marco is an emotionally driven, snake-oil salesman still pining decades later after his first love. As a villain he has no endearing qualities. He’s immature, vain, emotionally manipulative and, crucially, he’s also incompetent as a strategist and tactician. His plans fail more often than not, and we never actually see him win or succeed substantially. He has charisma – that is all. Not that I doubt the importance of charisma (see Hitler who was unimpressive, save for his charisma) but I don’t believe that Marco’s charisma is enough to command respect for long.

His stated goals are that the ‘Inners’ (Earth and Mars) would lose their stranglehold over the Belt, or that the Belt should have a turn to rule. But he never sells me on him believing it. A rule of writing is that even the villain must consider themselves the hero of their own story. Marco never sells it. Perhaps the weight of other character’s negative opinions – especially those whom we’ve learned to trust – just make his stated motivations appear as deep as a puddle. We know without a doubt his goals are ego-driven. And if he can’t convince me why should I believe that he managed to convince the thousands involved in his loosely-aligned army? Especially the army which was willing to commit to exterminate a significant portion of humanity and decimate the best source of resources in the solar system?

(Of course after reading book 7 I understand a little bit more how it might be plausible. There’s another antagonist behind the curtain who is pulling Marco’s strings… but that’s not good enough. Book 6 must be able to stand on its own… and it doesn’t).

Not only is Marco a complete jerk, maniac, sociopath, loser… he also through his actions dooms all of humanity. Oh wait! Hold the phone. I just realised Marco only gets 2 chapters. We were never supposed to come to like Marco or appreciate his POV, otherwise there’d be more chapters. Having that realisation though, changes nothing. A story needs a strong antagonist and Marco does not deliver.

There also seems to be a lot of plot holes. Pa Michio is an enemy general and yet she escapes punishment. On the contrary, she’ll become President to the Transport Union, effectively making her one of the most powerful people in the solar system. And that’s not negotiated from a position of strength, but rather just a suggestion. I’m not buying that either. And Holden, what happened to the anti-radiation drugs you have to have every few days? No mention of those in this book. And considering Belters don’t like gravity (the whole reason for this war in the first place), they seem to fair quite well in high-G space battles…

I’m not sure what the epilogue was either. It could have been cut out entirely. Maybe it was some kind of message of despair (prologue) becoming hope (epilogue). In contrast to the other book endings, it didn’t make me want to start on the next book straight away. The epilogue belongs on the editor’s cutting floor – not in the book.

There is a section in this novel which I found particularly clever. The key protagonist, James Holden, is trying to convince several potential allies that they should align themselves with him. None of these individuals would normally consider Holden to be ally-material. Though they are barely-touched-upon characters, they all have different agendas so there isn’t one point that will ‘win the room’. Dawes, another minor character, in a series of contiguous small scenes visits each of the characters individually and uses his influence and political nous to sway each of them. What makes this section particularly enjoyable is that Dawes arguments are entirely two-faced. As a negotiator he had traded convictions for victory. For example, Dawes finishes the scene telling one character ,

“There has to be a grown-up in that room,” he said. “Holden’s a puppy. We both know that. We need you there to keep him from f*ing everything up.”

Seconds later the next scene starts with,

“Holden’s the most experienced man in the system,”

He cajoules the next character with,

“But do it soon, because I will wager everything I have that even if he has to go to war by himself, James Holden will destroy Marco Inaros before this is done.”

To the next he says,

“He can’t do it alone,”

Dawes intellectually reasons with another,

“I know his reputation, but no one survives the things he’s survived without having a deep capacity for thoughtfulness and foresight. And more than that, strategy. Holden comes across feckless sometimes, truth, but he’s a thinker. What he’s doing? It’s all from the head.”

And then appeals to the emotions of the next with,

“You think he’s not angry?” Dawes said. “Holden is here as much for vengeance as you are. This is a man who acts from the gut, from the heart, before his head gets in the way.”

The series of scenes end with:

“Every time Holden takes a breath, Marco Inaros suffers,” Dawes said. And that was probably as close to truth as anything he’d said in the last two days.

A highly enjoyable series of scenes showing the full political-chameleon on display.

This has been a long post, so I will share only the very best highlights I made from this book:

  • but no matter the shade of their skin or the texture of their hair, ash and misery had made a single tribe of them all.
  • The harbormaster didn’t hug him back. He looked like a man holding his breath and hoping something dangerous wouldn’t notice him as it passed by.
  • There was an excitement in their voices. Some of it was their fear dressing up in party clothes,
  • Every atrocity that has been done to us had someone behind it who thought what they did was justified.
  • I thought if you told people facts, they’d draw their conclusions, and because the facts were true, the conclusions mostly would be too. But we don’t run on facts. We run on stories about things.
  • But Earth and Mars had kept the labor here on a leash made of soil analogues and complex organics.
  • “We beat Earth,” Filip said. He’d meant it to seem like an offhand comment. Something thrown into the conversation almost at random. Instead, he sounded shrill and defensive, even to himself.
  • Vandercaust nodded, as much to himself as to the boy. Time to pick his handholds careful. Whatever they were spun up over, this was the time he’d land in it if he spoke the wrong words.
  • The only ones not to speak were Amos, smiling his amiable and meaningless smile
  • Carlos Walker, still and silent and unreadable as language in an unknown alphabet.
  • If wars began with rage, they ended with exhaustion.

The interesting words in this book: refutation, pentameter, tardigrades, reperfusion, atavistic, epicanthic, demimonde, milquetoast, abrading, materiel, basal, spelunked, vestigial, orthogonally .

Brainwashing Media

Make no mistake: we are being brainwashed by the media that we consume.

(This post isn’t on faith, but it seems appropriate to acknowledge the Bible warns of such: ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!’ (Matthew 6:22-23)).

In the not too-distant past I watched an action movie on Netflix called Wolf Warrior II. It’s an action movie set in Africa. The core difference however is that it is a Chinese action movie. All of the heroes in the story are Chinese. The Chinese are building the infrastructure of Africa; they are boosting the economy and being friendly to the locals. When the bad guys (Westerners, mostly American) show up it’s the Chinese embassy that protects the African civilians.

Of course the Chinese are known for their philanthropic benevolence with minority groups. Well, I guess technically a million Uyghurs aren’t a small minority, so the fact they’re in prison re-education camps doesn’t matter. Nor am I referring to torture or prisoner organ harvesting. Heck, they do look after their own people well… if by ‘look after’ we really mean scrutinise dictatorially.

Wolf Warrior II was a clear and blatant propaganda piece, I suspect directed at helping with the China Belt-and-Road initiative in Africa. Swallow one tablet per day and if the delusions fade, take two.

More recently I was watching Designated Survivor. The first time I watched this show, I stopped early in the first season due to the obvious left-leaning nature of the show. When season 3 was released I thought I’d give it another go – there was an interesting subplot I was curious about. I watched the first two seasons, managing to overlook the political agenda.

Until I hit Season 3. Or should I say, season 3 hit me as subtly-as-a-brick-to-the-face.

On the third episode we find out the President’s deceased wife has a transgender sibling, Sasha (male to female, transition unspecified). I’m all for nuanced social debate and this can occur through TV shows (though I would argue not all shows are appropriate, nor is sport). But nuanced is the important keyword here. Don’t show only one side of an issue. Show all sides fairly and respectfully and let the audience make up their mind. It’s a hard balance to achieve, I admit that, but at least try for balance. Don’t preach at us Hollywood; you are not our moral betters. (Quite the opposite, often).

From a writing perspective the way in which they did it was deeply flawed to. First, the minor issue: Implausibly Sasha had been kept out of the spotlight until now due to privacy. Really? A President’s transgender in-law had been either hidden or all of the press gallery had shown unusual restraint? And Kirkman and his wife have never discussed her brother/sister even when alone? It’s a failure of good screen play writing.

If they wanted a transgender character they could have introduced Sasha in a far better way. If a family member, have Kirkman “discover” a previously unknown family member. Make it a step-family, a niece or nephew or a non-biological ‘extended family’ member. The point is, make them so distant as to not be newsworthy, while still close enough to still warrant an emotional connection. Better yet, in my opinion, have them be non-family, and introduce them in an event which creates an emotional bond. Kirkman’s wife has recently died. Have the transgender character be a teacher who was especially supportive to the daughter. There were so many better ways than a previously unknown close-family member suddenly appearing. Introduce them a few times early season 3 with a few in-scene shots and then late in the season they can plausibly take a larger role in an episode.

The worst part is the context they brought this character into. It is honestly so bad it’s cringe-worthy. It is self-defeating, an own-goal, and I’d argue demonstrates the stupidity of the politically-correct viewpoint of equality and relativism. It almost sends out invitations to be mocked.

The context: Penny Kirkman, the President’s young daughter experiences her first period. Having lost his wife recently to a drunk driver, the President doesn’t know quite how to broach the subject. Kirkman mentions Penny’s period to Sasha and this is how the conversation unfolds:

Sasha: “I’d be happy to speak with her if you like?”
Kirkman: “I don’t know…, I can-”
Sasha: “That’s OK. You’re correct. I didn’t actually go through it myself. It only felt like I did… but that’s the whole point. But don’t you think that she’d be more comfortable discussing it with someone who… looks like me rather than like you.”
Kirkman: “Yeah you’re right. Thank you.”

Okaaaay. So the President doesn’t know how to address the topic with his daughter. He doesn’t turn to her grandmother. He doesn’t turn to his long-term and highly-trusted female former chief-of-Staff. Or any of the other females in his personal or professional life. He thinks it’s a good idea to turn to someone who admits they haven’t experienced it, but feels as though they have.

And feeling like experiencing it ‘is the whole point’? Um, no. If I’m finding something embarrassing or confronting I’d like to talk to someone who has experienced it. I want to hear about their experiences, and the strategies and tips that might help me dealing with it in the future. I might have questions and I want them to be able to answer them from a position of wisdom and experience. Not feeling.

And if that was the most convincing rationale the writer’s could come up with, they really should have let the idea percolate longer.

So Designated Survivor this is where I find something better to watch. You won’t be missed.

Living Water: No Turning Back

This post is loosely based on chapter 4 of Living Water by Brother Yun. It was my launching-pad and thoughts around a related theme. The chapter is titled ‘No Turning Back’.

At the beginning of the chapter Yun references John 15:16 where Jesus says,

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.”

I’m fast approaching middle-age and I have to ask myself the difficult question of how much fruit that-will-last have I produced in my life? If I were to die today, how much of my influence would echo through to eternity? I don’t ask that question for a desire for my own legacy, but to question if I have spent my time well.

The question is easier ignored because the answer is confronting: precious little. I could attempt to justify myself by defining the question more broadly and try to wriggle off the hook. I could probably even make a semi-convincing argument. The truth remains the truth, no matter how much I dislike its implications.

I resemble a cheap fruitcake. Being a fruitcake there ought to be much fruit; and yet it looks like the baker has thrown the fruit from across the room, and whatever small amount happens to reach the the mixing bowl is the end product.

Earlier in John 15, Jesus says,

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. … This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (v1-2, 8)

Honestly, I am in need of a good prune. I need to make conscious decisions to put my growth-energy into fruit, not leaves or limbs. I want my life to amount to more eternal fruit. Not out of fear, but as an act of love.

Yun goes on in the chapter to talk about how we should seek God’s plan for our lives. He assures us that if we listen, we will hear it. More importantly, we should accept that there will be opposition to any plan that comes from God. There will be vicious attacks from the enemy and friendly-fire from those who should be allies. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:12–13)

As Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” One does not ‘take up a cross comfortably. The cross is an instrument of humiliation, suffering and ultimately death. And we’re called to take it up daily.

We will be humiliated because the world at-large will not accept the Word of God. The world mocks the wisdom of God and think itself more wise. We will suffer at the hands of the enemy, just as Jesus did and many thousands of his disciples have throughout history. Some will be martyred in a single act of brutality; others will lay down their lives in a daily surrender. It’s a cross; not a silken robe. Stepping up for Jesus is stepping out into a battleground, make no mistake – but don’t back away.

Who in their right mind chooses to enter a war? The brave, who choose to swallow their natural fear for a greater good. Those who put others before themselves and want to prevent suffering. Those who are willing to take a stand against evil. Those who believe in the rightness of their cause and trust their Commander.

Jesus asks it of us and as Christians we’ve said that he’s Lord of our life. That should be the end of all negotiations. Jesus came to the world, and to the cross, to provide a means by which people could be reconciled back into relationship with God. Those who don’t know him are the reason why we should carry our cross. As the recipients of God’s grace, sharing the good news should be natural, if we can just learn to humble ourselves and value the opinion of God more than that of our family, colleagues, neighbours and world. (Keeping the good news to ourselves would actually be the most malicious hateful thing we could do).

Prune at will, Lord God. Join me, brothers and sisters, in bearing much fruit and making the vineyard flourish.