God’s Perfect Calendar

Everything has its season.
Each purpose has its time.

A time for birth,
a time for death.

A time to put in,
a time to pull out.

A time to kill,
a time to heal.

A time to demolish,
a time to construct.

A time to cry,
a time to laugh.

A time to lament,
A time to jump for joy.

A time to scatter stones,
A time to gather them up.

A time for embrace,
a time for distance.

A time to search,
a time to let go.

A time to protect,
a time to throw away.

A time to tear,
a time to mend.

A time to shut up,
a time to speak up.

A time to love,
a time to hate.

A time for war,
a time for peace.

–Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

A calendar divine
with blocks of time for all,
on every page a plan,
a way to rise or fall.

They say it’s very great,
God’s timing never fails.
His planning fills the need,
that nothing ill derails.

But when I check the list,
there’s war and death and weeds.
Along with planting seeds,
There’s room for angry deeds.

I’d like a plan with peace,
with laughter, rhyme, and life.
I want to plant and grow,
but never spark such strife!

So why does God send death,
to follow after birth?
And why a time to smash,
To weed or foster dearth?

But then I hear a voice,
that asks me how I live.
There’s time for war or peace,
but which one will I give?

God’s plan has lots of space,
to fill with what will last.
Or not! He makes you free,
to kill or break or blast.

And though it’s true that birth,
in death will always end.
The way you fill that space,
Will echo without end.

Psalm 50

Asaf’s Song

Yahweh, God over gods spoke
Summoning the world
from farthest east to utter west.

From Zion, his perfect beauty
Blazes out everywhere.

Our God is coming, and will not be silenced
Devouring fire leads,
Powerful wind surrounds.

He calls to the skies above and the ground below
to judge his people.

Gather to me
my faithful friends,
my covenant-bound,
my full worshipers.

They will proclaim my justice to the skies,
that God is the one who judges.

Listen to me, realms above, and I will speak.
Attend, Israel, and I will give you my testimony.
I am the God over all gods.

It’s not for your sacrifices that I will find you right,
Nor your continual burnt offerings.

I won’t take a bull from your house,
Nor sheep or goat from your fold.

Each animal living in the forest is mine,
Flocks and herds on unnumbered hills.

I know each and every bird in the wild,
Even the crickets are in my care.

If I get hungry, I won’t tell you,
Because everything in the universe is mine!

Do you think I eat bulls?
Or drink goat’s blood?

Offer God your thanks,
Keep your word for God Most High!

Then call on me when you’re in trouble,
I’ll save you and you’ll honor me.

But if you’re wicked, here’s my message:
Why are you talking about my commands?
Why do you even mention my covenant?

You hate to be corrected,
You discard my words like garbage.
To see a thief is to love him.
Adulterers are your best friends.

Your mouth is evil’s publicist,
Lying is your tongue’s vocation.
Your brother is a favored target,
and your sister is not exempt.

You did these things and kept silent.
You thought I was like you.
But I’ll rebuke you and confront you face-to-face!

Understand this, you who forget God,
Lest He destroy you and there is none to save.

The one who honors me offers thanks,
Following my path.
I will show him my salvation.

(Featured image credit: Openclipart.org)

What Harm Can She Possibly Do?

This is a sequel to Have You Tried Going Around?. You might want to read that first.


This is a work of fiction, as should be obvious. People, places, and events are all products of my overactive imagination.

When a mysterious lady arrived on horseback from the north, there was quite a stir in the city.

She was accompanied by a young maid, who radiated innocence. In some big cities, the maid might have created some suspicion. People might not have believed such innocence could exist. But in this city, they believed in the innocence of young girls, and so were simply pleased to see it clearly displayed—finally.

She also had five guards. The guards looked quite competent, provided one assumed they were intended to stop pick-pockets and petty thievery. Besides, what more could a lady need? Nobody would assassinate her, since she was, after all, a lady. The duke’s guards who watched the gate were, in fact, comforted by the presence of guards. They indicated normality. They were so obviously suited to their function that one would never assume they were anything else.

What was so mysterious?

All sorts of things. The lady arrived from the north, after all. Only the bravest of merchants and travelers tried the pass through the mountains to the north of the city. It was, in fact, regarded as impossible for carriages or wagons. It seemed odd, at first, that a lady should show up out of the mountains on horseback. She was strangely dressed as well, with very colorful, but clearly well-worn clothing, a face that had probably been beautiful before she’d aged, and more than one bag that probably contained some of the makeup she used to overpaint her face.

There was nothing definite, but people started to expect her to show up in the marketplace and begin telling fortunes. In the city, fortune tellers were generally rather ordinary looking and had a pack of cards, or some simple crystal ball. As long as they didn’t tell any fortunes that annoyed the duke (and nobody wanted to annoy the duke), they were regarded as harmless. It was, in fact, unlikely that people were right about the visitor from the north. Public opinion is so untrustworthy.

But in this case the odds were quite wrong. Madame Peony showed up the very next day in the marketplace with a canopy and curtains. She paid the price of a market stall, which was unheard of for a fortune teller. Normally they occupied whatever space was unoccupied and didn’t cost them rent. Madame Peony broke the mold. This could have been dangerous, but she did it with such grace and style.

Besides, her customers were women. Almost exclusively. It seemed that men were not anxious to spend time in a tent in the marketplace with someone named Madame Peony. It seemed like a way to be accused of unfaithfulness without the benefit of time with, shall we say, a paid companion. Not to mention they’d rather have spent that sort of time with her maid. Here maid, however, was distinctly unavailable. She’d listen, she’d flirt, but she never put out. Contact with her was so, well, innocent.

And time she spent. Lots of it. With the ordinary fortune teller you paid a few coppers, then she (or he) dealt out some cards and provided a vague response. Madam Peony spent time with each person and listened. She was a bit steep at 20 coppers per session, but the sessions! She’d spend as much as an hour with a client, and they always left with a look of satisfaction.

She quickly became a favored stop of the rich and famous. Women, that is. Now if it had been rich and famous men, someone might have gotten suspicious. If the Seneschal, the treasurer, the chief justice, the commander of the guard, the chief jailor, and dozens of other officials in the duke’s castle had all been going to see some woman—from the north, no less—there would have been more than suspicion. There would have been action. A summons from the duke would be likely, and such things were unlikely to go well.

But who cared if the wives of all these men wanted to spend money on what was probably a fraud in any case? It wasn’t that people in the city weren’t superstitious or didn’t believe in magic. It was just that a fortune teller in the marketplace filled a known role, and that role was harmless entertainment. Nobody actually believed that sort of thing.

What the men didn’t know, and wouldn’t have cared about if they had known, was that Madam Peony not only told fortunes; she gave advice. In fact, she gave good advice.

Weeks went by, then months, and Madam Peony became a fixture. Her origins faded and became just a subconscious support for her mysterious and valuable capabilities. Nobody could remember precisely what she’d done. At least nobody who was talking.

And then … Nobody ever really untangled what happened.

The treasurer, who had once recommended that a northern merchant be arrested and his property seized, became quite certain that the Seneschal and the chief justice were plotting against him. Some rumors said he had heard this from his wife who had heard it from somebody, nobody was quite sure who. There was even a rumor that Madam Peony had seen the plot in her crystal ball, but everybody knew Madam Peony was just entertainment for women, and there was actually no evidence she possessed a crystal ball.

Since the treasurer was quite unpopular, and generally believed to line his own pockets at the expense of other officials, it was not considered surprising. What was never rumored, though it was true, was that the wife of the chief justice had informed him that the treasurer was about to extort some more money from him in order to protect him from the duke, who had heard that the chief justice had actually arranged that someone the duke had wanted condemned be acquitted. The rumors became much more complex than this.

In the middle of the night a prisoner was actually located in the bowels of the dungeon and led outside the city. Why this happened was very unclear. But it was rumored that, in exchange for this deed, the wife of the treasurer (or was it the chief of the guard?) had acquired some magical potion that would kill the chief justice and the seneschal when they had lunch together. Well, not kill them during lunch. Rather, it would kill them hours later when nobody would suspect their lunch. But these rumors only circulated among the upper class women, so nobody who mattered cared.

There was no rumor, but the chief guard of the duke’s dungeons was having an affair with the wife of the city guard. There was a rumor, largely among the wives of high officials, that something scandalous would be revealed about the chief guard, probably by the chief justice, but also perhaps by the commander of the guard. The commander of the prison was not unhappy to hear that both were dead. Oh, and some months after the events here related, he married the bereaved widow.

There was never a rumor that the prisoner had escaped. The chief guard was an old hand at this. The dungeon census, faithfully maintained and about as truthful as a romance novel, remained the same, and the extra supplies were sold, increasing the net worth of the chief guard.

The Duke believed in the rule of law. Most particularly, he believed that when he ruled, it was law. In fact, since the duchy was so isolated, he had come largely to believe that what he ruled was reality as well.

The problem, however, was that when one trains one’s staff to fake reality, they can actually become rather good at it.

Madam Peony disappeared from the marketplace. She and the imprisoned merchant traveled north through the mountains. Nobody pursued, because there was nothing to pursue. At least nothing important. The upper class ladies were distressed, but they got over it.

Oh, and Madam Peony replaced her colorful clothes with light armor, a dagger, a short bow, and a rapier with which she was regarded as without a peer. She was a troubleshooter for the merchant guild, and nobody better. As it turned out, she could do quite a bit of harm.

(Copyright © 2018, Henry E. Neufeld. Image Credit: Openclipart.org)

Like David (A Meditation on Psalm 51)

Like David, I can

 

Approach God

Because God is

Giving

Loving

Forgiving

Fully cleansing.

 

Confess

Because I am a

Sinner

Displeaser

Prisoner

Veteran wrongdoer.

 

Rejoice

Because God

Teaches

Enlightens

Washes

Songs restores.

 

Be restored

Because God is

Creator

Restorer

Granter

Willing deliverer.

 

Proclaim

Because I’m

Singing

Praising

Sacrificing

Witness giving.

 

Be family

Because I am

Blessed

Prospered

Restored

Fully offered.


(Copyright 2018, Henry E. Neufeld. Image credit Openclipart.org.)

What Was It Like?

When God said, “Let there be light!”
What was it like?

An explosion of sound
Like rolling thunder
Clashing cymbals
Booming drums
Or a wildly cheering crowd?

Or maybe it was glorious music
An engaging ballad,
An organ performance
A symphony
A marching band
Perhaps an explosion of rock and roll.

Perhaps it was a sweet solo,
A Capella words with power
A soprano reaching star high notes
A bass rattling the foundations
A rich contralto
Or a rapper’s energy and rhythm.

Or maybe the Word had no sound
An explosion of light and color
Beauty illumined by soundless word
Dreams of mysterious symbols
Sculptures of thought and design
Even substantial structures of emotions.

Even that might be insufficient, so
A blueprint stretching infinitely
Connections intricate and planned
Mechanisms carrying unresisted power
Measurements of incomprehensible precision
A song, a picture, a word, an action, divine.

Or just God’s Word.
“And there was.”

Dedicated to James Kristian McClellan. Maybe it’s you!

Author Reading from The Scarab and the Cross

Published by my company, Energion Publications, this book provides a broad, dramatic sweep of history driven by imagination and spiritual commitment. The YouTube video below is a video reading by the author.

You can also read his next novel, The Gathering of the Eternal Five, which we are serializing on the Nurturing Creativity blog. Just look for the tag Gathering of the Eternal Five.

Neither – Nor

There is, says Paul …

Neither Jew nor Greek
yet they have different histories
different ways of life
different languages
different cultures

Neither slave nor free
yet they still have different backgrounds
different economic status
different concerns
different ways of living.

Neither male nor female
yet we have different physiologies
different psychologies
different interests
different ways of relating.

And now, perhaps …

Neither black nor white

Neither rich nor poor

Neither gay nor straight

Neither left nor right

Neither north nor south

For we are all one in Christ Jesus
in all our diversity
in all our debates
in all our differences
in all our wrongness
in all our rightness
in all our strengths
in all our weaknesses.

For it is not of works
no works of greatness
no works of charity
no works of worship
no works of knowledge
no works of belief
no works of knowing
no works of understanding
no works of writing
no works of speaking
no works of silence
no works of anything at all.

It is the gift of God.

By grace.

Because Jesus is faithful.

— Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:9


(Featured Image credit: Openclipart.org.)