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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Hum (06/06/13)

TITLE: Pax et Benedictio
By Beth LaBuff
06/10/13
~8th Place


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Dust particles meandered on filtered sunlight that streamed through cracked stained glass. Their descent was accompanied by quavering a cappella hums. The service, such as it was, had ended; yet a few of us old-timers stayed to hum the hymns. The Federation didn’t much like it, but since we weren’t technically singing treasonous words, they chose to look the other way.


Following a series of disasters and subsequent uncontrolled rioting, under the guise of “citizen protection,” the Federation mandated what became known as the Pax et Benedictio1. The media said it was a benevolent gesture that bestowed peace and blessing on all.” This peace and blessing was accomplished by seizing banks, businesses, private property, and enforcing martial law. The federation set itself up as god. Any mention of Jesus was forbidden. One was allowed to speak about god with the realization that it referred to the Federation now.


The Federation could keep my lips from singing, but they failed to restrain the message quickening my soul. I pressed my lips as I hummed the melody; my heart sang the words,

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard
.2



It was a redemptive ending to a hollow service. As I exited, I shuffled past the Federation worker who stood sentry at the entrance. I nodded and smiled, as was my practice each Sunday. His gaze was fixed with one arm across his weapon, as per his duty. These workers lived among us, but they were provided with extras from the Federation.


For decades the Federation-approved-messages were taken selectively from the book of Ecclesiastes, and they were always on the meaninglessness of riches, wisdom, or pleasure. They frequently quoted King Solomon’s words, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.3” Apparently, this validated their actions of removing meaninglessness from citizens’ lives. Last week’s message was, “A time to be born and a time to die,4” and since the Pax et Benedictio, the Federation determined both. But, they failed to ever mention these words from Ecclesiastes “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come.5” Days of trouble were here.


And the days of trouble continued to plague us. On Tuesday evening, as I sat down to my meal of bread and greens, the sky detonated. For what seemed like minutes, but in reality, was probably seconds, more meaninglessness was removed from our lives. Our town was shaken, whole sections obliterated. Many people perished, including those from the families of Federation Workers. No help arrived from the Federation. There was no media coverage. It was rumored that the Federation was testing weapons when a tactical error occurred. The event was covered up. The Pax et Benedictio grew more meaningless. There was no peace; we were far from blessed.


Sunday morning, I returned to what remained of the chapel. The door sagged at an angle on one hinge. A scrawled message was tacked to the door, “No service today.” The damage afforded a view of the chaos inside.


I clambered over rubble. An acrid odor drifted on unfiltered sunlight that beamed through the open roof. I felt an urgency swelling within my soul; my lips were constrained to follow. I quoted words that were never uttered during services after the Pax et Benedictio. I recited Solomon’s conclusion, from the end of Ecclesiastes, “Fear God and keep His commandments.6” Without God, life is meaningless.


I looked around as others drew closer. I started to sing.

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain;
2


The Federation worker approached; he cradled his weapon. Compelled by decades of silence, I couldn’t stop. Then a miracle, the worker dropped his weapon. It landed perpendicularly across a fallen beam, forming a cross in this chapel where none had existed for years. He then fell to his knees as the words of the song echoed off battered souls and walls,

Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again
.2



If King Solomon were here today, perhaps he would find meaning in these words, “A time to hum and a time to sing.” This was that time. I am blessed. I have Peace.
***


1Pax et Benedictio – Latin for Peace and Blessing
2Tell Me the Story of Jesus by Fannie J Crosby--published in 1880
3Ecclesiastes 1:14
4Ecclesiastes 3:2
5Ecclesiastes 12:1
6Ecclesiastes 12:13
(NIV)


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Member Comments
Member Date
Noel Mitaxa 06/13/13
You captured my interest right from the beginning with your graphic descriptiveness. If this is a prophetic picture of the west, it parallels how Soviet secularism was undone by the babushka - the grandmothers - who were trusted with raising their grandchildren when parents had to work. These ladies retold bible stories which took root in the hearts and minds of the coming generation.
God bless.
Lisa Johnson 06/14/13
We never need to lose sight of the fact that God's Word says His children will be persecuted. Thank you for your very thought- provoking story.
Genia Gilbert06/14/13
Well written and interesting. There is great great power in God's Word, whether reading, saying, singing, or humming it. Your entry says that to me.
Fiona Stevenson06/15/13
Well thought through - well told. Thank you, and God bless you.
Ellen Carr 06/16/13
I enjoyed reading your story and thought about how it reflects what has already happened in some places. I liked the irony of the Federation calling their mandate the Pax et Benedictio. Well written!
Karen Pourbabaee 06/19/13
Very well written semi-futuristic story...we see elements of it now all around. I liked your hopeful theme that we can always have His peace and blessing and sing His words in our heart.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/20/13
Congratulations, Dear Friend, on EC. This is one of my favorite stories of all-time in the challenge--So well written!
Margaret Kearley 06/20/13
Wow Beth, this is amazing, and so powerful. What a fantastic reminder that in the very darkest times - (past and future), nothing can stop the moving of God's Spirit and the power of the Gospel of our God. As always, wonderful writing. Thankyou.
Kenn Allan06/20/13
Nice goin', Beth. You've done very well this year. Hooray!
Yvonne Blake 06/20/13
Oh wow! Chilling!

Congratulations on your EC!
Charla Diehl 06/20/13
So glad that you earned a spot on the EC list with this thought-provoking, gripping and creative piece. Again, your writing never disappoints your readers. You are consistently entertaining. God bless,
Bea Edwards 06/22/13
Fantastic, not so futuristic tale. I was humming the Todd Agnew version of Fannie's wonderful hymn. Have you heard it? Jazzy and bluesy yet true to the message. Very cool-thanks and congrats.