Bits of History - Honorius and Telemachus

I wish I knew more about history. Oh I know the basics, but one thing that really impresses me is when I hear someone speak about some event in history and they really know their stuff.
History fascinates me. Maybe it's because if you look closely you can see God's hand in history, the careful orcestrating of His plans.
Especially interesting to me is American history, and lately I've also been equally interested in the history of the Christian church. I'd like to learn more about these two apects of history and get to the point where I can talk about an event and really know my stuff.
Because of the appeal that history has for me in general, and as a way to vent my creative writing impulses, I thought I'd try writing a small bit of history from the perspective of someone who was there. I'll try to post these "bits of history" periodically, and hopefully it will benefit me in learning more history and improving my writing skills and benefit you in looking at historical events or characters from a different perspective. So here we go.

Rome - 404 A.D.

The sun was shining gently on the marble balcony as Honorius looked at the view from the imperial palace in Constantinople. He had lived here in this place from his birth, and he knew the hallways and arches like he back of his hand.
This was his home, the place he felt most comfortable. He had grown up in this palace with his brother Arcadius who now ruled the eastern half of Rome. It was a parting in which both brothers had agreed to go their own ways and rule each half of the empire as they saw fit. In the past either the eastern or western ruler would in essence control both halves of the empire, but with Arcadius and Honorius the empire was split pretty much down the middle with neither of them dominating the other. He had ruled western Rome ever since his father died nine years ago. Honorius was only eleven at the time.
Honorius turned away from the balcony and made his way to the courtyard. He needed to take a stroll through the gardens. Perhaps that would clear his mind.
Honorius couldn’t quite shake from his mind what he had seen two days ago at the gladiatorial games. For the most part it had started out like many other days at the games he had seen in the past. Honorius had been prepared to play the traditional role of the Emperor at the games – let the gladiators fight until one of them had the other on his knees, then give the thumbs down signal that was expected of him, giving the gladiator permission to complete the kill.
They had brought the first round of gladiators into the arena, and he half remembered the men calling out to him the traditional cry of “Hail Emperor! We who are about to die solute you!” He winced when he remembered his indifference to that phrase.
He was talking to Stilicho, his father’s “Master of Soldiers” who had been appointed his guardian after his father’s death, when there seemed to be a disruption. The crowd suddenly called madly, angry at something that had happened in the arena. The mood of the crowd was always fickle, but something seemed different this time. Honorius turned and looked out across the arena.
Suddenly he was aware of a small man dressed as a monk who was running to the center of the arena where the gladiators fought. The monk ran right between two gladiators who had been locked in combat and attempted to push them apart! The crazy little man, Honorius thought. They’ll probably turn on him now.
“Stop! Stop! In the name of Christ I beg you to stop!” said the monk, whose name Honorius later learned was Telemachus. Those words were now emblazoned on Honorius’ heart. He wasn’t sure he would ever forget them.
Surprisingly the gladiators didn’t kill the man, but the crowd had been outraged to have the games interrupted in such a way. Before long stones and other objects were raining down upon Telemachus. He continued to beg them in the name of Christ to stop killing men for sport until he was unconscious, the sand of the arena soaking up his blood. At that point Honorius had turned away.
Now as Honorius walked through the gardens at Constantinople, he replayed the monk’s last words in his mind. Honorius had always considered himself a Christian, but what kind of Christian was he really? He had watched the games many times before, watched men die without a second thought. He was ashamed that it had took an innocent monk speaking out and dying in the arena to open his eyes.
Honorius set his jaw, knowing what he must do. He had never made many decisions as the Emperor; he was content to just live his life, oversee what he must, but leave the rest to other men. Many called him weak and maybe he was; maybe that was why the Roman empire was split into two virtually separate empires with he and his brother at the helm. They had both been spoiled shamelessly as children and neither of them was dominant over the other now; maybe they were both weak as rulers. But this was the moment, the one moment in Honorius’ life when he felt he must do what he had to do. This was something that could not be left to others.
The next day, in the year 404 AD, Honorius issued a decree that the gladiatorial games should come to an end. No matter how many weak or even disastrous political moves Honorius had made in the past or would make in the future, he knew he could rest easy knowing that he had not failed in this; he had been strong and done what was right.

I gathered information for this piece from the following websites:

A Day In the Life . . . Or A Couple Weeks In The Life Of Us

I'm afraid it has been a while since I've posted. The last couple of weeks have been rather busy for me and while I've been looking for inspiration for a blog post, nothing has come up. So I thought I'd take this oppurtunity to give a brief update on what's been going on with our family as we start the new year.

I've still been looking for a job, but it looks like I may be hired on at a dental office in the mountains for one day a week. If it works out this job will be a good thing, because if I can work one day a week it should help with most of the rest of our bills. I may still work for a temporary agency, but this office may eventually have me work two days a week, and if that happens I won't necessarily have to stay with the agency. That might be nice because I'll actually know what days I'm working ahead of time, but We'll see what I decide to do when the time comes.

My brother and his new wife have a verbal agreement to buy a house! The house is about five minutes from where Derek and I live, so they will be really close by. It's a nice house and piece of land, and I think it will be fun to have them so close!

My sister was hired on at a chiropractic office, but it's part time and odd hours, so she'll still probably be looking for something else with better hours. But she's ready to start working again, so she's happy for this job for now.

Derek and I have spent our last few weekends attempting to get more firewood. We use our wood stove a great deal for heating because it saves us money on propane. We ran out of wood about the beginning of January, but my parents have some scrap wood at their house that we've been gathering and using. At least three different people from our church have also offered to give us wood as well. Once they heard me saying we were running low on wood they all volunteered to give us some of the wood around thier houses. We love the people at our church - they are definitely like a second family.

Derek and I have also been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with our devotions. We got a couples devotional for ourselves at Christmas, and we've been reading that every night. We've been trying to read at least a chapter of the Bible each night too, because devotions are good, but it's also important to read God's Word. So we're trying to do better at that. I'm still working on praying more diligently - that's an area I fail in so often, but I'm still trying.

Our dogs are doing very well, though we're still working with Ralphie on having accidents in the house. He's been doing alot better though. Quincy gets grouchy occasionally, but we're working that out of her too. They still chase each other around the house and play all the time. They're pretty adorable!

A couple Saturday's ago my parents treated us to a trip to the National Western Stock Show! Our family loves the stock show and we go nearly every year. I thought it was great of my parents to pay for all of us to go, because Derek and I probably wouldn't have gone this year if they hadn't. We saw a rodeo, and I got some good pictures! It was a fun day, and I was glad to get to go on an outing with my family.

That's a brief summary of what we've been up to the last couple of weeks. Nothing too inspirational or thought-provoking. Just a day in the life . . .

American Idol - So Many People Looking For More

Last night I watched American Idol. I just started watching American Idol sporadically a couple of seasons ago, and I've never watched the audition protion of the show, so last night was the first time I've ever seen any of the audtitions. It was rather interesting to see who passed on to the next stage in the competition and who didn't.

While I was tempted to laugh at some of the people who attempted to impress the judges, the temptation was quickly removed when I saw the faces of the auditionees as the judges told them they didn't have what it took to continue on. Many times their faces just fell, some had tears filling their eyes, others left the room and cried as if someone had just died. The ones that really struck me were the people who begged to be able to continue, saying this was their dream and it was all they had left. While it could be somewhat amusing to see the reactions of these people, I found myself feeling more sad than amused.

It occurred to me that the reason these people were taking the rejection of these judges so hard was that they had wrapped up their self worth into whether the judges thought they were any good or not; I think it meant so much to them because they felt that if they couldn't make it on American Idol their lives would lack direction and a greater purpose. The thought that these people were relying so much on a fickle reality show tugged at my heart. These people weren't just disappointed that they didn't make it - they were lost.

Only Jesus can give a direction and purpose in peoples' lives. Only a relationship with Him can give someone a feeling of incorruptible self worth. Those who live without Him can only invent their own purpose and meaning in their lives, and when a human tries to come up with his own meaning for life, it only results in emptiness. I can't laugh at that when I see the evidence of it on American Idol. These people don't need fame or popularity or wealth. They need Jesus, but they don't realize it.

The people that appeared on the show last night are not the only ones who are floundering in life, drifting without an anchor. Those people are all around us; behind us in line at the grocery store, sitting next to us in class, walking past us at the mall. Let's try not to let them drift away without attempting a rescue. Let's try to show them what it looks like to have an Anchor in the storm of life.

Musings of a Bookworm - Salty and Shiney

I love getting new books for Christmas. I think it's because I tend to be a bookworm anyway, but it's just the best thing to get new books.

This Christmas my mom and dad got my a new series called "The Mark of the Lion" series, by Francine Rivers. It takes place in Rome about 70 A.D. If you are going on vacation or break, and you want a book series that captures your attention and won't let it go, I definitely recommend these books. I can hardly put them down. I'm on the second book right now entitled "An Echo in the Darkness", and I can hardly wait to find out what happens to the characters.

One thing that has particularaly struck me while I've been reading these books is the complete moral depravity of Rome during this time period. The books are fiction, but I have no doubt that the author really did her research. She includes many Roman terms and rituals in the books, and I have confidence that these books are a pretty accurate representation of the culture of that time.

The sins discussed in this book are truly appalling. Any disgusting and perverted thing you can think of seems to have been considered normal in the Roman empire, and not just normal, but encouraged. The moral darkness that is discussed in the book is somewhat disturbing.

It occurred to me as I read that our world today is in no better shape than the world I've been reading about in these books. I tend to be somewhat naive and sheltered (by choice - I shelter myself from alot that goes on in the world) when it comes to the sins in our society today. The world is just as disgusting and perverted today as it was in A.D. Rome, and is quickly getting worse.

Thankfully Francine Rivers does not leave the story in complete darkness - one bright light shines through in the form of a young slave girl named Hadassah who is a Christian. Hadassah strives to reflect her Lord and longs for the courage to tell others about her Savior.

I can relate to Hadassah. I want to tell those around me about my Savior, but something often holds me back from speaking plainly. Fear?

I always think back on those conversations with unbelieving friends and think of the perfect thing to say. Why I can't think of something to say at the time I don't know. It's frustrating, and I often feel like a failure when it comes to sharing the Good News of Jesus. Somehow I think if I'm supposed to speak the Lord will give me the words - but I think that may just be an excuse. How can the Lord tell me what to say if I won't even open my mouth?

I'm encouraged when I think that in "The Mark of the Lion" series Hadassah doesn't just share the Lord with others through her words; often it's through her actions. I don't feel like such a failure when I think that the Lord can still use my example, even when words escape me.

I know that my spiritual gift is not evangalism, but it's still something that I want to work on, that I long to get better at. With the Lord's help I think someday I will.

In these books, those around Hadassah could see that something was different about her. The Lord reflects through every Christian - the Lord uses us as the salt that keeps the world from rotting, the light that shines through the darkness. I'm going to try my best to be as salty and shiney as I can this year, and I give you all permission to remind me of that whenever necessary; and of course, to be salty and shiney with me!

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:13-16

Musings of a Bookworm - Signs and Library Books

Those of you who check my blog every now and then might recall that about two months ago I made a post regarding a book I was reading. The book was entitled: "Are We living in the End Times?" by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Well, I'm still reading it. It's a library book and I've had to renew it twice at the library already, and I'll probably have to try to renew it a third time this week. I tend to take a while at reading non-fiction books because my fiction book usually distracts me. Since this book is coming up for renewal yet again, I decided I better wait on starting my next novel until I get a little further in "Are We Living in the End Times?" It's an excellent book really, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in doing more research on Bible prophecy.
Reading about Bible prophecy and the end times also tends to inspire me, so I thought I'd finally follow through on that promise to blog about what I learn from reading this book.
One of the major focus points of "Are We Living in the End Times?" is that many of the conditions that must be present before the major end times prophecies can be fulfilled are already in place today, and that the Rapture of the church could occur in our generation. I certainly am looking forward to the day when the Lord will return and instantly take us home, as any Christian does, and I found their arguments for an emminent Rapture very encouraging. I thought I would paraphrase a few of those arguments here.

One thing I have learned from this book was that Matthew 24 and 25 are two very important chapters on end time prophecy. I've read those chapters many times, but I never actually took the time to try to understand exactly what was being said. Tim Lahaye considers this to be a sort of outline of the end time prophecies given to us by Jesus Himself.

One thing that I never really noticed before (or maybe it's just that I never appreciated it before - it's amazing how the Lord can show you something new in something you've read a thousand times already) is that in Matthew 24:3 the disciples specifically asked Jesus what would be the signs of the end times and of Jesus's coming. Isn't it nice that the people who were closest to Jesus when He was on this earth had the foresight to ask a question like that? Jesus's answer was that (1)"Many will come in My name saying 'I am the Christ' and will decieve many", and (2) that "there will be wars and rumors of wars".
If we look at those two signs and consider the state of the world today it's amazing. The book discussed how at this time in history there is more deception and division within the church than ever before. And it's true, there are so many different denominations of churches, and some of the doctrines presented today are not supported by scripture.

As for the second sign Jesus mentioned that there will be wars and rumors of wars, and that "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom". The authors said in their book that they believe that Jesus was referring to a specific kind of war. The authors compared the the term nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom to other portions of scripture, and they surmise that this phrase could be referring to a war started by two nations that would quickly involve the whole world, which could fit with the curcumstances of World War I. The pestilences and famines that are mentioned after that would match up with the flu epidemic and famines that killed so many people right after World War I. More people have died in wars in the last hundred years than in any other period of human history.

After listing these two signs Jesus said that these would be "the beginning of sorrows" which is a term that is used elsewhere in scripture to describe a woman in labor. These signs represent the very first birth pains, and as Tim Lahaye describes it in his book "in most cases she does not look for the birth of the child immediately; she looks for another birth pain".
Tim Lahaye's interpretation of the "signs" Jesus mentioned may or may not be accurate - only time will really tell. But the book definitely convinced me that the world is in a better position for the return of Christ to Rapture His church than at any other time in world history.

Well, rats, I wanted to write about some of the other signs mentioned in this book, such as Israel becoming a nation(Ezekiel 37), and the belief that the generation who sees Israel's "fig tree" blossom "will by no means pass away before these things are fulfilled" (Matthew 24:32-34), or the increase in knowledge and travel predicted in Daniel 12:4, or the rise of China and China's significance in the war of Armaggedon (we're the first generation to see China expand and grow like it has since World War II). But I think this post is already extraordinarily long, so I'll close for now. If you want to read more about it you might just have to stop at the library and rent the book. Or maybe I'll have time to do one more post about it before I return it; we'll see!
I hope you've found some of these "signs of the end times" as encouraging as I have. Since I've begun reading "Are We Living in the End Times?" I'm more encouraged and hopeful that the Lord will indeed take us home before I die, and I feel like I have more reason to really believe that than I had before. If you've never done it before, I recommend you pick up a copy of a book on Bible prophecy by an author you trust and start reading it - I think it's one of the best things to boost your walk with the Lord, because it will remind you that He could return at any time and will encourage you to live as if He might!

Happy New Year! - Recap 2008

So much has happened this year, for myself and those in my family. When I think through this past year it's amazing to me how much has changed and how much I've grown.
I am not the type of person who makes New Year's resolutions, because things almost never turn out the way you think they're supposed to, then you just feel disappointed. But I do think that it's a good thing to reflect on what the Lord has done for you during the past year at this time. The following is a recap of my year and some of the things the Lord has taught me.

January/February 2008 - I started out this year as a newly engaged girl, a shining ring on my finger and a brand new Yorkshire puppy named Ralphie. I spent these first couple of months looking at wedding websites and magazines, trying to decide how I'd like to organize the wedding.
At the end of January I went back for my last semester of dental hygiene college. This was probably the most stressful semester of hygiene school that I had to endure, mainly because of preparing for and worrying about my National Board Exams.
My clinic at dental hygiene school started out rather well, and I was starting to feel more confident about becoming an official registered dental hygienist, and working in the "real world".
I also enjoyed my first Valentine's Day ever with anyone, and I felt extremely blessed that I got to spend it with my fiance, Derek! Derek brought flowers and a white teddy bear to my school for me on Valentine's Day (all my classmates were very impressed)!
January and February were very blessed months for me.

March/April 2008 - Clinic definitely became harder during this time. I failed one of my patients, and I think my confidence was somewhat shattered after that, and i struggled through Clinic for the rest of the semester. I think at this time the Lord was trying to teach me to rely on Him more. I didn't realize it at the time, but when things were going well in clinic, I think I was relying on myself too much, and not taking the time to continue to ask for the Lord's help and thank Him when things were going well. This was one of those hard lessons to learn.
I took my written National Dental Hygiene Board Exam in March. The Board Exam actually fell over spring break, and alas as soon as spring break started I was aflicted with a terrible cold. My nose was dripping constantly and I could barely breath - I was sniffing through the entire exam, and I hardly slept the night before because of my cold, and the stress of the exam. Adding to my stress was the fact that no one from our school had ever failed the exam (and I really didn't want to be the first)!
Clinic started to work out a little better by the end of the semester, and I finished all my patient requirements on time! I found out that I passed the written boards as well, which was a relief.
March and April were months of just trusting the Lord.

May/June 2008 - I graduted from dental hygiene college in May! Our program had a seperate pinning ceremony, and I also participated in my college graduation, where I was presented with my Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene (well, it was actually just the degree cover and my degree came in the mail in August, but it was still exciting)!
At the end of May I took my Clinical National Board Exam, in which I pick a qualifying patient and clean their teeth, and my work is checked by the board examiners. My patient was actually my dad, and it was rather fun to get to clean his teeth. After the exam we went to Arby's, and I ate a roast beef sandwich and curly fries, and a shake - I just went through a very stressful exam, so I indulged!
Jne was a flurry of packing, finishing wedding plans, dress fittings, and finding time to relax when I could. I found out that I passed the clinical boards, and I started gathering paperwork for my license to practice dental hygiene.
May and June were months when the Lord helped me through everything I needed to accomplish.

July/August 2008 - I received my dental hygiene license in the beginning of July and signed on with a temporary agency.
On July 12th Derek and I got married! The wedding went very well, it didn't rain, the guests enjoyed themselves, we got all the pictures taken; it turns out there was nothing to worry about! Except that I almost tripped on the runner on the way down the isle, but I didn't.
Derek and I took off to our honeymoon in Hawaii! We had a beautiful time on Kuai, and it was a wonderful start to our married life! I'm so blessed to have found my husband, he's one in a million! Derek and I are determined to go back to Hawaii some day, because we had such a relaxing time there.
In August I started work with the temp agency, which went well at first. However toward the end of the month I poked my hand with a dirty dental instrument, and I had to get my blood drawn and tested for any infections that I could have caught. I also learned how Workman's Compensation works. Unfortunately my employer was not helpful, and for some reason after the incident she wouldn't assign me any more jobs. I switched temp agencies shortly after.
Derek also resigned from his job at the end of August.
July was a month of blessings and love and thanking the Lord for everything He has done for us. August was a month in which our first tests were sent our way, but with the Lord's help they have helped strengthen us in our faith and in our marriage.

September/October 2008 - We got a new dog! Her name is Quincy, and she and Ralphie love playing together.
Derek started hunting for jobs before he left, and he was almost hired for an analyst position right after. However before he was hired the market took it's down-turn, and the company Derek was interviewing with put on a hiring freeze. We spent the next few months searching for jobs. It was very stressful not having any income, but once again the Lord was teaching us to trust Him. I think He was also trying to teach us not to worry so much, because we used to worry about money when Derek had a job, which we realized was silly now that we had no income! Another hard lesson to learn.
September and October were stressful months, and months in which we had to totally trust that the Lord would get us through.

November/December 2008 - Derek found a job and started in November! It's a job with the county, in the human resources department. It's not something Derek wants to do indefinitely, but it's a job, and it's helping us pay many of our bills. Eventually Derek wants a job back in finance, but the Lord gave us this job and we're very grateful for it.
I also got a temporary position filling in for a hygienist who was going on maternity leave, and I started that job in November. It was very helpful to have that job through Christmas; we were able to buy gifts for others and each other, and to pay some of the remaining bills for the month.
My brother got married on December 15th to a wonderful girl named Olivia. It's a blessing to have another member to our family!
Our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a married couple were wonderful! We enjoyed being together and starting new traditions together.
Tonight is New Year's Eve, and we plan on ringing in the New Year with a movie marathon!
November and December have been months of enjoying being together and thanking the Lord for taking care of us.

Prayers for the New Year:
That the Lord would bring Derek and me good jobs that we enjoy, and that we'd be able to make all our bills and start saving money again.
That He would continue to bless us and take care of us and our families through this New Year.

Happy New Year's!

"The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." Numbers 6:25

Happy Birthday Jesus!

This is a Christmas song by Alabama, and I think it's a good reminder of what exactly we're celebrating. I thought I'd share it here for those of you who may not have heard it.

Happy Birthday , Jesus

Happy birthday, Jesus,
It's that time of year.
All the lights on the trees
Say Christmas time is near.
Another year's behind us,
You helped us make it through.
So, happy birthday, Jesus,
This song is just for you

We all get so hung up
On material things
At times it seems like we forget
What Christmas really means.
It should be thanks we're givin',
That's why I wrote this tune.
Happy brithday, Jesus,
This song is just for you.

There's a gift for everyone but you
Underneath the tree.
No, it's not much, but I hope you like
This song to you from me.

Happy birthday Jesus,
That's why I wrote this tune.
So, happy birthday, Jesus,
My song is just for you.

This song has always been special to me, because it's one of those songs that really brings the entire purpose of Christmas back into focus.
Derek and I watched "The Nativity Story" last night. If you have not seen that movie, you should go out and buy it. It's definitely one worh having.
These days the Christmas season encompasses so much - lights, presents, parties, family, decorations, cookies, etc. There's nothing wrong with enjoying everything Christmas brings, it's a wonderful time of the year. But I think we need songs like this, or movies like "The Nativity Story" to get us to slow down and really think about Christmas, and what it's all about. To get us to think of what happened about two thousand years ago, and the beautiful gift and sacrifice that our Lord gave to us that day.

"Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world - stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death - and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas."-- Henry Van Dyke

"Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart." -- George Mathhew Adams
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