Outsider Applauds: Mark of the Lion Series

mo 2So, for my next Outsider Applauds I want to tell you about one of my favorite trilogies. But I want to preface this by saying that, generally, I do not like Christian Fiction. I often find it boring, or predictable, and too unrealistic. That is not true for Francine Rivers books. I have not read all of her stuff, and probably won’t to be honest. I first read her book, Redeeming Love. It’s a story based off of the book Hosea (which is my favorite book of the Bible – I am sure I will write a blog gushing over it at some point) and it was really good. Like real good. So note that despite that, I am not writing about that book.

I am writing about the Mark of the Lion Series. This trilogy is made up of Voice on the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness and As Sure as the Dawn. There are numerous characters that we follow throughout the books but two main storylines. The first is the story of Hadassah, a young Jewish girl just sold into slavery, and the family she serves The Valerian’s, a prominent, wealthy family in Rome. The other follows Atretes, a Germanic warrior who is captured and turned into a Gladiator in Rome. Set the generation after Christ when Rome desecrated Jerusalem and at the height of Roman prowess, this characters will captivate your heart. Hadassah is a constant testament to fighting for your faith, not just in society but within yourself, battling herself as much as she battles the world. The Valerians buy Hadassah to be a maid for their youngest child, Julia, and we begin to see the family dynamics at play. Demetrius, a foreigner who bought his Roman Citizenship and the Head of this Household doing everything he can to provide for his family and protect them from the endless indulgences and debauchery of Rome, with his wife Phoebe who loves her children but is brokenhearted by their desire to live as Romans and not live a life that is pleasing to the many gods she spends hours praying before. Then there is Julia, the spoiled, indulgent youngest child who wants nothing more than to be like her big brother and experience all the pleasures and wonders of Rome. Then there’s Marcus, a young man who has been swept up in the chaos of Rome, but had found himself jaded, unhappy and bored with the life he had created for himself, but refuses to be pressured into the life his father wishes for him. Finally, you have Atretes, a Germanic warrior who has been captured and uses his rage against Rome and his belief in his tribal god, Tiwaz, to fight for his life as a gladiator.

mo I have never found myself so invested in characters before, and I love to read. I would get so lost in these books that I would find myself praying for the characters. Strength for Hadassah. Salvation for others. Then I would realize what I was doing, laugh at myself and apologize to God getting so wrapped up in book. Hadassah is written so transparently and her struggles are put on display and we can see how she struggles to remain faithful, which demonstrates way we can struggle and fight to remain faithful, especially when our flesh wants nothing more than to cave and give in. Marcus is paramount in helping us to personify the struggle with being discontent with the world around us and the desperation and sorrow that comes when they have nothing else to turn to.

The book begins with a harrowing and haunting description of Jerusalem during the first Jewish-Roman war. Enjoying historical fictions, I loved the first new chapters that really set up the world Hadassah (in Jerusalem) and Atretes (in Germania) were leaving and the world they now found themselves in, the great Roman Empire. However, this intro can be very sad, and some people can get lost in it and give up on the book before getting to Rome. If this section is difficult for you, I would encourage you to read until you meet the Valerians and complete that chapter. Wait until you get to Rome and Hadassah is installed in the Valerian household. If you still are not hooked, then that’s fine, we all have different taste — but hold out through Jerusalem and Germania, get to Rome before you quit.

So, there it is. I love these books. I reread them at least one a year, I just cannot stop myself. So grab a copy on the first book for your next vacation and get ready to enter a world that will challenge you, convict you and cause you to look at the world around us. Here is the link for the author’s site and more information if you want: http://www.francinerivers.com/books/series/mark-lion

I hope that you have a great day, and happy reading!

Mo3RSVP!

What is your favorite fiction book you have ever read?

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A Day in Paris

So late. So sorry. It has been a mad house around here and I have been beyond busy. I finally got around to editing some of the pictures from our day trip to Paris two weeks ago and wanted to share them with you.

Please enjoy, and know that I did!

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Monet!

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Picasso

But no Van Gogh, because they were on strike and that portion of the Musée D’Orsay was closed.

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More to come soon from a trip to the Royal Gardens and another day trip to Bruges.

Quick Photo Tour of My Day!

Bonjour mes amis!

Today I was able to spend some time walking around my town and enjoying some more of the town. Getting to traveling around and explore with the students last week motivated me to go exploring some more.

So I did.

Here are some of the results.

Enjoy!

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This was a beyond delightful cup of coffee! It was a Costa Rican Monte Brisas – Red Honey Processed! DELISH! Naturally sweet, smooth as can be, big flavor but still mild… Not really sure how that works but…

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Town 3_FotorI snagged the picture above real quick on the Metro because it seemed like a perfect representation of this city. A mix of what you would expect from Europe, with the infusion of Muslim culture, complete with the tension between the two. Had to snap it.

Shenanigans with my Students

I tried guys… I tried really hard. But the students were only here for 5 full days and we busy all week. Their schedule was packed trying to get everything in. One of them said he’s take care of the update for me… so here is his contribution for us all.

IMG_0951Hi this is Jackson I’m not going to use any punctuation during this because I just don’t feel like it. Except for periods because they are necessary. Blog finished. 🙂 have a fabulous day, you are all beautiful… almost all of you 😉 jk all of the pretty ones.

Well… Teenagers. Gotta love em. – Isn’t he great! ❤

Sorry for the delay in updating. I had been prepping for the student team and then they were here, and now they are gone! So I have spent the past week with 9 of my wonderful students. Having them here with me has been so refreshing and relaxing. IMG_7856Here is quick run down of all that we did.

Sunday I spent the day having lunch with women from the Food Bank and it was Moroccan style so delicious and non-stop eating for about 3-4 hours. This was such an amazing time of being invited into this amazing woman’s home and getting to struggle through French and just share love with these amazing women. The students did prayer walking in the city and just tried to stay awake to kick that Jet Lag.

Monday the Students helped up with English Classes and set up a Doctors Office, Train Station and then a Restaurant. Student Team 5It was really great to see them be so open with the students in the class and bold in speaking with them. We also spent time prayer walking in the city in a heavily Muslim area and in a red-light district. This was a really great time for me because I got to really see the students hearts and one of the students and I talked for a long time about what God has been doing in her life and how He has been calling her in different ways.

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Tuesday the students has an Amazing Race style scavenger hunt where they ran all over town and had to find their way without help. It was interesting to see them get excited about their victories and then struggle when they got lost or frustrated. IMG_7929 I am so bad at not helping, but Dr. Willie kept me in check. It is a valuable skill for them to learn to be able to find their way through a city, ask or help and learn public transportation systems. Then that evening we did some prayer walking and had a night on the town.

Wednesday we had our Youth English Classes and the students just killed it again. That evening was probably my favorite night of the week. We had all the students get together, Belgian and American, and we played games and just hung out, but then we had a great time of sharing testimonies and of the students telling about what God was doing in their lives. The honesty with which my students from home shared with was amazing, and truly, the Belgian students too. I was just so amazed by their transparency and honesty, and by what God was doing in their lives.  IMG_0987I was also beyond excited to see my two guy students maintaining relationships this night and really reaching out a friend of theirs who is not a Christian and being intention in loving him and speaking Truth to him. I am so proud of those boys.

Thursday we took them to a Arab Market and just let them enjoy that cultural experience. Then we went to the food bank and the students got to serve and learn to struggle through language barrier and communicate regardless. I was so impressed with their willingness to jump in and go for it. Then we came back to my apartment and prepared for Next Level with the Belgian students. It was crazy doing a study of the Word in French and English,but it was great.Student Team 10 All the students were giving their input and being involved. It was wonderful.

Friday, yesterday, they flew out early. Now all I have to remember them is the memories, picture (as you can see) and this one lonely bag that was left with me. IMG_1009

I’ll stop there, but I could go on for pages and pages about these kids and how great they were and how much fun we had. I just love them. It’s kinda crazy.

Beyond what’s been going on the student team, I am just trying to figure out all the things that I am supposed to be doing and just trying spend quality time with the Lord. We always need the Lord, but for me, it is beyond apparent for me when I am here. I need Him everyday when I leave my flat to be able to be effective and intentionally. Distractions lie everywhere. I am trying to phase out my social media back some, but kick it up here in Belgium with the students here. I finished my study of 2 Timothy which was a really great place to start when I got here, and now I am moving on to Colossians.

I’ll be updating again soon, hopefully.

Praises

  • This was such an amazingly refreshing week for me with my students here. I don’t think I can even begin to thank God for them and the joy they brought to me this week.
  • I am getting more comfortable trying to speak out in French and being OK with failing.
  • I have been getting some positive responses to wanting to hang out and study the Word together so that should kicking off strongly very soon.

Request

  • That the students would not just return to normal this week as they get back into school and life. That this experience and time here will draw them closer to the Lord and that this change they way they look at their ministries at home and the impact they can have on their schools and communities.
  • I will be teaching at Youth this upcoming Friday about a sensitive situation that has come up. They sought me out specifically because of my counseling experience. Please be lifting that up.
  • Always, always…. LANGUAGE. Especially with Youth Camp coming up here in a few weeks.

Question for you: (I am enjoying getting to know my readers more and more!)

What was the most life changing experience that you have ever had?

How did it change you?

Adventures in Bookstores and Lost Coffee Shops

Some days are just more adventurous than others…

Yesterday was a BEAUTIFUL 17 degree day (celsius friends… it’s like 63 F back in ‘Merica) here and so a bunch of the guys are going to go have a football (soccer) match. Kam and I decide that because it is so beautiful, we’ll go watch and relax in the park. That is when the adventure starts. They has already left so i was going to meet them where they we going. Then the location changed. And so I head for the new location, being given directions by Kam via text, and they change it again. So them I find a place I kinda know and begin to wait for them, because they said they’ll come pick me up in a car.  So I wait… and wait. Then BOOM, there they were. We then sped off for the park and run in circles a bit trying to find parking and the rest of the group.

Kam, Kelly and I take a wonderful little walk through a couple of parks near by. I am pretty sure the parks here are mostly connected to another park, so we walked through like 3 parks in a matter of like 30 minutes. The parks here are beautiful and there were so many people out because of the nice weather, so its was a really great time.

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Then, some of my dear Romanian friends came over that even and we shared a meal, caught up on life and played some Resistance, because what is a night with my Romanians without a couple a rousing games of Resistance. [For those who do know know… Resistance is a FANTASTIC game that is kinda like Mafia but way better. Check out the website if you wanna know more. http://www.indieboardsandcards.com/resistance.php%5D

Today turned out to be adventurous as well. I just wanted to go to a coffee shop I found online, but it was not that simple. I end up wandering all over this part of town trying to find it, only to realize that it was IN this mall right here. So I head into the mall, which I like just about as much as I like malls back home (not at all) and search all over the mall for this coffee shop. CANNOT FIND IT. Like for serious. Here is where the adventure comes in. I see a bookstore, and I am just naturally drawn to it. I have been wanting to try to read a book in french (keyword, try) and I thought, “Well, I if I cannot have coffee, I will at least have a book.” So i go in. While looking at the books, trying to decide if i think I am muddle through Hunger Games or Divergent, I see L’Élue, and read the back description and realize, it’s Gathering Blue, by my lovely Lois Lowry… I then realize I have to find The Giver! It would be a great book to read! YES! So I start looking for the book… falsely assuming that it would be called Le Donateur, because thats the direct translation. Cannot find it (it’s a theme today – Maybe I’ll call today Le Perdu). So I give it on The Giver. CoffeeCafeBook_FotorI then decided I want Divergent, but the copy I find is in Flemish. BAH! I gather my courage and decide to ask the sales women for a copy in french. Victory, I find myself with a copy of Divergent in French and I begin to feel confident. So I decide I really want The Giver, or maybe I just don’t want this book store to beat me like the lost coffee shop did. So I once again gather my courage and have a Franglish conversation, mostly French, with the sales women, determine that the first book in the series in French is in fact call, Le Passeur (which translates to either the Ferryman or the Smuggler… which kinda, maybe makes sense), and take my love Lowry book instead of Divergent. Mme Rule would be proud! Then I see an escalator that I did not see before, ride it up to an even further victory and find the coffee shop I was looking for. It’s been a good day.

Overall, I have been doing really well. Just getting into the swing of things in Belgium and forging my own schedule and plans. This week is going to be a good week for me a to do some really great planning done, as well as begin to meet with different girls in the youth group. Next week is going to be insane, but great, because my Youth Group kids from the States will be here. It’s going to throw a wrench in planning and trying to regularly meet with people, but its going to be nice to see them and teach them more about serving and doing life in a different culture.

Praises:

  • I am feeling really well adjusted and comfortable where I am. (This also means its think to kick things into gear with planning and get to work.)
  • I have been able to meet with some of my friends here and I have already seen good come from these times together.
  • I have been able to spend time with most of the people I have been wanting to see, so that has been awesome.

Request:

  • That the students I am trying to meet with and mentor will be excited about it and make time for study of the Word. School schedules can be demanding, plus just life in general, so pray that these students would make this a priority.
  • That my French would continue to improve. The more my language improves the more useful I am. Plain and simple. There is one girl now that I would love to meet with, but she does not speak English and my french is not good enough for mentoring yet so… I just need constant growth in language.
  • That I would keep restfulness in mind. I tend to struggle with this and it’s going to be easy to allow busyness to creep in as things progress.

Day one!

Day one (or two… depending on how you are counting.)

I made it safely and easily with no mishaps and I was even able to sleep a little bit on the plane. I also watched When the Game Stands Tall and My Best Friends Wedding, one of my favorite movies.

[So… if you know me in real life, you know I have this crazy loud boisterous laugh that I can’t always control. Well, I figured out where it came from! Julia Roberts has that laugh and when I was younger I idolized her and wanted to be just like her. That’s what caused me to start wanting to dye my hair red. Just saying…]

Sorry, side tracked by talk of Julia Roberts… hate to say its really not that abnormal.

So, since landing and getting to the flat, I have unpacked, had breakfast, spent some time reading in 2 Timothy, started my Piyo DVD program and did some Cardio X from P90X, but mostly just the Kenpo X stuff. I also showered, did my hair even put make-up on. Now, I am writing a post. Pretty much anything to avoid going to sleep and to ward off jet lag.

Oh the dreaded jet lag. My first trip, it was SO BAD that I was falling asleep every time I sat down. Now, I have learned better how to handle it, and I know that I need to be active and sweat. Last year we went for a run that day and the difference it made was insane. So I wanted to run today, but it didn’t work out well so… DVD workouts in the flat.

Then, I had lunch with K and discussed what things would be looking like for the next few months. Finally, we went off to english class for the youth and I was able to help K and R with that portion of what I will be helping with.

God is doing a lot of big things here and I am so thrilled to be able to be a part of it.

Much Love

Be praying, please, for:

Language – French is HARD!

That I would long to spend ever more time in the Word

For the Lord to speak clearly and to hear clearly what He would have me to do.

[P.S. – Please don’t expect daily blog post… I cannot manage that – lets just be real. If you subscribe (over there to the right,) you will get an e-mail when I post then you can read it!]

[P.P.S. – The photo below is an example of why I have the best friends in the World!]

Morgan Letter

Twas the Night Before Belgium…

Twas the night before Belgium

And all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring

Except for a Morgan.

The bags all packed

By the front door with care

With Prayers

The Jesse and her

Could make it the airport.

The snow has come quick

And mounted with ease

While Morgan whined loudly

Wishing snow to be gone.

[Hope you enjoyed that… it just came to me… Because I am a dork like that.]

ANYWHO…

It’s here.

The night before I leave.

I cannot believe that in 12 hours I will be on a plane heading for Belgium.

For three months!

This is just insanity – of the best sort.

I am so excited and honestly, these past few days, I have been absolutely blown away by the kindness, love and generosity of my friends and those in my life. Even my Middle Schoolers… they have been sending me the most encouraging text and letters. I am amazed. Simply blown away.

The Lord is so good.

I learned a long time ago that on my own, I am not well liked and I am not very likable. [I am OK with this assessment of myself – don’t worry, my self-esteem and all such things are fine, I am stating fact.] However, The Lord has been so faithful to me and has grown me into this person that people love. [Hope that doesn’t come across as prideful… oh gosh!] Seriously though, I grew up in my hometown being generally disliked and picked on, and now the Lord has been so gracious to give me favor is so many environments and so many people that love me and show me love that I cannot even begin to process it. I look at my friends sometimes and just ask they, “Why do you fools even like me?” or “I still cannot believe that you wanted to be my friend.” I really ask these questions… and I know that it must be because of the Lord being faithful, gracious and loving. There is not other reason I can even begin to accept or believe.

So unending thanks to God, my Lord, for his Faithfulness in loving me, despite how broken I am, and for giving me the privilege of my friends, my church and this call to Belgium. I don’t deserve such extravagant gifts, but He gives anyway.

So… anyway.

T-Minus 12 hours…

Until I Fly Away.

Woah!

Keep up with me on here because I will be trying to update regularly.

Pushing Back Darkness

[Note: This was written back few weeks ago (mostly) and I thought it had been lost, then I found it… so it was finished and posted… so the time delays are weird. Sorry, not sorry.]

This weekend, and currently, I am with my middle schoolers serving all around OKC. We painted, cleaned, take, tore down, edged and prayed all over this city these past two days. We also invited an apartment complex to a carnival that we will be throwing at their complex. Here are some pictures from our weekend thus far!

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Then, this morning, we attended church at Frontline Church in Mid-Town.

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It was an excellent service on the difference between finding out identity in Morality and the law versus finding our identity in Christ. The difference in freedom between those two is insane and humbling.
A couple of great quotes…

The law doesn’t give you righteousness , it shows you that you don’t have any! — Andy Burkhart

“We are children of the promise, it’s a miracle that God saved us [all of us, not just the really bad ones]” -Andy Burkhart

We talked about how Christ was and is our only righteousness and that when we try to obtain righteousness in any other way, we devalue His works on the Cross, and we elevate ourselves to a status that we cannot begin to obtain. Thinking we can do anything to save our selves, that our works are anything more than mere “filthy rags” is absurd and defames our Lord. Our ability to follow rule and make things look good for everyone IS NOT REAL CHRISTIANITY. It’s a facade that stops us from interacting with others genuinely and limits our ability to look to others around us for accountability and strength. When we begin to depend on ourselves, I am reminded of Ephesians 2:3 where Paul talks about us following the “desires of the body and the mind” which leads to wrath. Ephesians 2:1-3 gives a pretty good idea of where we stood before Christ intervened. Legalism and self-righoutness can very easily fall into these desires of the mind. It’s far easier to be focused on doing the right thing and following rules than it is to humble yourself, admit you cannot do it, and follow someone else to step in and save you.

We are a proud, proud people. We includes me, but it also included you. We cannot stand to fail, or be wrong. We HATE being forced to be dependent or anyone else. Any true and honest Christian will tell you that learning dependence on God is the most painful, difficult process that we face,but one that is so well worth it.