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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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.

Football in the Park_Fotor Park - Bridge_Fotor

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.

Book Review: Honor and Shame

Hello World,

As you saw on my last post, I have a very large list of books that I want to read and I am quite happy about it. so, I thought that while I do this, I would post Book Reviews of the books that I read. Not a full on dissection, or any award winning anything, but something to help me remember the key points, share them, and promote the books that I think rock (or warn against the ones I don’t.)

So, here’s the first one.

Honor & Shame

by Roland Muller

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This book was first suggested to me by my friend V when I shared my love for Muslims and sharing truth with them. It has been a book that has been on the back burner for a while, and before I came on this trip I decided it was time to finally read it.

This writer outlines three main world-views in which people filter their beliefs and views. These are broken up amongst three main cultural divisions, guilt-based, fear-based and shame-based. The books then explains each of these world-views and provides a means of effective sharing the Gospel in a way that best connect with individuals in this culture.

We, as Americans, tend to live in a predominantly guilt-based and view things based on a legal model that tends to focus on right vs. wrong. When applied to the Gospel, we tend to focus on our guilt before the Lord and how Christ took our judgement and declared us not guilty and we stand innocent before God. There are aspects of the Bible that speak very VERY clearly to this, Romans for example, because it was written to Rome, which pretty much ushered in the whole legal/guilt-based trend (and Greece too). But this is not true for all cultures.

The book then takes a look the other two forms, starting with fear-based. Fear-based cultures tend to be those we would see in areas that have heavy spiritualism and heavy involvement with the supernatural world. These people believe “that gods and spirits exist in the universe and they must live in peace with these unseen powers, either by living quietly, or by appeasing their powers” (p.42). This is common is jungle areas of Africa, South America, Borneo and other places where fear of the spiritual world reigns. Christian Missionaries have been pretty effective in these areas because having power in Christ is something that we understand well and is easier for us to understand fear.

Next, and for the majority of the book, Muller looks at shame-based cultures. This is much harder for western-minded individuals to understand because it defies the right vs. wrong mentality we cling to. People within shame-based cultures do not focus on the rightness, or correctness, of an action, rather they look at if the action will bring shame. Also, when shame in given, it does not simply affect the individual, but their family and their tribe. We are highly individualistic in western cultures, so this focus on the group mentality and setting a higher priority on the groups shame and honor, rather than our own happiness and comfort is beyond our sphere of knowledge. In order to understand shame-based cultures, it requires intentionality that not all westerners are willing to put forth. In shame-based cultures, shame is more than a feeling or emotion, but rather a position within society,

Muller then goes into depth about Islam and how Shame and Honor play pivotal roles in their culture. He looks at what brings shame, and what brings honor. He then address the roles of honor and shame in the Bible and how clearly the theme of God removing shame and restoring honor is within scripture (Lev 26:13 for one). Finally, He shows how each of these elements, guilt, fear and shame, are a result of the sin and that the Lord does not address just one of these aspects as he restores us to Himself, but He addresses all of them and this is how we are fully restored before the Lord, free of guilt, free of fear and free of shame, because God takes out guilt and leave us innocent, takes our fear and gives us power and removes our shame and bestows us with honor! That is the Gospel. All elements are important to understand, but some resonate with our world-view and culture better.

Muller ends the books with the following quote “The church of Jesus Christ has the message and the methods to relate to ever worldview and every culture in the world. In this book I have simply attempted to unlock the door to our understanding of guilt-, shame-, and fear-based cultures… It is now your duty, as a servant of the Lord Jesus, to open the door” (Pg 110-111).

[Note: This book does not say that any one of these cultural world-views is right or wrong, just different. When we begin to understand how people see things different, we can better love, communicate and know others.]

I hope you all enjoy this book as much as I have!

[Also, don’t worry! I will be posting an update on life things either today or tomorrow!]

All the reading!!!

I just wanted to take a quick minute to share with your ALL my books that I am planning on reading in the near future…

Be jealous.

The two titles you cannot read are Finish the Mission and The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World both by John Piper.

That’s all… I’m gonna try to sleep instead of read all night.

P.S. John Piper gives away tons of his books for free as ebooks if you are interested or want them. (www.DesiringGod.org)