Thursday, April 28, 2005

Xeo and Thermopylae

Isn't that a great title! Just look at it. Isn't it beautiful. You have no idea what it means. Doesn't it make me look smart? It really makes this look like an intelligent blog. Don't worry though, I'm not that smart and this will be a pretty easy read. Hopefully by the end the title will make sense to you too!

So I'm reading a new book now about Ancient Greece. This book is part of the reading list I'm working on suggested by Hugh Hewitt in his book "In, But Not Of". The purpose of the list is to get a basic understanding of our Western Culture background.

This book is called Gates Of Fire and is by Steven Pressfield. The thing that surprised me is that it's a fictional book. I thought I was reading a through a list of history books but this one is a novel. The author has taken historically accurate details from that time and woven them into a story. This really is a good thing because I think we remember stories much better than text books. So instead of plodding my way through a history lesson (which I was prepared to try and do) I am now flying through this novel just wanting to get to the next page.

To give you an idea of what I'm reading about besides just Ancient Greece here's what I can tell you. This takes place around the battle of Thermopylae in northern Greece. What was the battle of Thermopylae? Well before I try to explain anything let me remind you the reader (I know at least my wife reads this) that this is the first book I’ve read about Greek history so I have no authority to actually sound like I know what I’m talking about. And the reason I write in this blog is to stimulate brain activity and prevent stagnation for myself as well as any readers. So with that in mind . . . Thermopylae!

At this point in history the Persians had launched an effort to take over as many countries as possible whether by force or by diplomatic means. I think it was more often by threat of force. One of their enemies was Greece which is where the Spartans come from. I think we’ve all heard of the Spartans. In fact I was a Spartan in my middle school but only now do I have an idea of what that means. These Spartans were professional warriors. They trained hard, really hard. This was not just a job to them but it was their life. In fact it seems like it was the life for everyone in Sparta. These men were so deep into this and it was so ingrained into the culture in Sparta that it appears like something of what a modern day cult is. Once you are in you can’t get out and it was worth your life.

So the Spartans, the world’s best warriors, were not willing to let the Persians come in and take over their land. Thermopylae is a narrow rocky mountain pass that the Persians would have to come through to get to Sparta. Only 300 Spartans were sent to defend against the what sounds like millions, of the Persian Army. There were others besides the 300 Spartans but they were farmers and laborers turned soldiers. They were not trained for battle like the Spartans were. This was basically a suicide mission for these Spartans in order to buy time for the Greeks to rally their troops.

Each Spartan has a Squire that assists them with just about everything. These Squires are actually quite highly trained too just by being with the Spartans so much. They are in fact used by the Spartans as training partners quite often. This isn’t as good as it sounds. The main Squire in this book Xeo, gets into all out fights with his Spartan-in-training partner quite often and on purpose. This is to help the Spartan-to-be to learn how to fight better!

The Persians eventually somehoe capture Xeo and the Persian King is very interested in hearing his story. The King wants to know names and events and how the Spartan camp operated. He wants to hear the story of the Spartans from someone who was inside. So the book is told from Xeo’s point of view as he is telling the King his story.

I’m not through yet but the battle is starting to heat up quite nicely now. I’ve never read a battle book. Never thought I’d find it interesting. Like I said earlier though once I start it’s hard to put down and I have to at least finish the chapter. So I should have it completed in the next few days and I’ll try to give a summary.

If you are at all interested in Greek history or war or even just the relationship between a bunch of men in an impossible situation I think you would enjoy this book. Until next time . . .



Saturday, April 23, 2005

Tooth Extraction

Today’s blog won’t really fit in with the normal purpose of my blog but hey I’m not really that serious of a guy so I need to let my blog lighten up once in a while too!

So this week I visited the dentist three times. Not very exciting for anyone! The first appointment was just for a couple of cavities. The second for two more cavities and a wisdom tooth extraction. And the third to make sure the empty wisdom hole was healing properly.

Now I’ve known since my last visit to the dentist 13 years ago that something was eventually going to have to go down with my wisdom teeth but I was not at all interested. At the time I was playing the trumpet quite seriously and had heard of other trumpet players who had their wisdom teeth out and had a nerve that runs through the lip cut during the process. Not an enticing story for a guy that’s hoping to study an instrument whose primary sound producer is the lip! I thought this was a great excuse. But probably the real excuse was that I was just scared. When it comes to the dentist, somehow TV or movies or friends stories have managed to scare the crap out of us . . . or me.

During my first visit when my two fillings were being put in the assistant put the mirror down for me to see what was going on. Anyone want to watch their teeth get drilled down and needles go into their mouth???? Well anyway I did. I thought it might help me get over the fear. My Dad has never been good with blood so I’m always trying to make sure that’s a fear I don’t develop. It was actually pretty cool to watch. At this point in my life I’m quite interested in learning stuff and I’ve always wanted to know how things work so watching the filling go in was kinda cool. It was like I was watching it on the operation show or something.

Two days later I returned to get two more fillings and that darn wisdom tooth out. I decided before I went that I would watch it all again if I could. The dentist didn’t seem to mind so I pulled down the mirror and watched and you know it wasn’t that bad. There was some blood, and he had to drill into my bone to get it out but it really wasn’t that bad. In fact I laughed at one point. The dentist had his plier like tool on my tooth trying to pull it out and it wasn’t coming. He kept pulling but nothing. He started to try and loosen the tooth by rotating the tool like a joystick in circles while pulling. Before he started this ‘move’ he said to me, “I’m going to add a little pressure to your face here.” It’s not like I could say, “No, I’d rather you just do it without the extra pressure.” So on and on he went. For some reason this just struck me as funny. I pictured what the view would be like if there was a camera above us. I think it would have looked like some kind of torture scene from the show 24 or something. Except they had me so frozen that instead of it being torture it was just funny.

I left the dentist thinking, “Why was I so afraid of this? Why do people make such a big deal about wisdom teeth? It wasn’t that bad at all. In fact it was even funny at one point.” About three hours later the freezing had worn off and I was lying on the couch in pain in need of the prescribed Tylenol 3’s with Codine! That’s when I realized what all the complaining was about. It was just a constant aching pain that somehow passed through my whole body. I never took the Tylenol 3’s. I’m not interested. I’m not even interested in the extra strength Tylenol’s that I am taking but I need to sleep and not be miserable so I went for it.

So it is two and a half days later as I write this and it still hurts. I can still tell when the Tylenol is wearing off and that makes me mad. I hate that drugs are controlling how I feel. I understand that they are necessary which is why I’m not a Nazi about it but I try to avoid them when possible.

This all made me wonder about how much I could endure pain. I watch and read stories about people who get shot or stabbed or fall off a cliff and break a limb and then they do something else incredible like get away from their captors or walk 20 kilometers before they receive any help. I know these are just stories but this kind of stuff does happen and I can’t help but wonder if I would make it through one of those situations. I can’t even deal with a tooth extraction without two extra strength Tylenol’s every four hours!!



Monday, April 18, 2005

Jewish Gifts

We have much to be thankful for courtesy of the Jews. Even words like new, adventure, surprise, unique, individual, person, vocation, time, history, future, freedom, progress, spirit, faith, hope, and justice wouldn’t be a part of our vocabulary if it wasn’t for the Jews. I just completed reading “The Gifts of the Jews” by Thomas Cahill so I’m going to try to give a very quick wrap up of what I got from this book.

“The Gifts of the Jews” was a great read and helped me gain a better understanding of the Old Testament and many of its major players. Thomas Cahill takes the reader through what the mindset of the culture would have been at different points throughout the Old Testament and how much of a challenge it was for the Israelites to do things that were contrary to that culture. The idea of there only being one god for instance would not even make sense to us today if it wasn’t for the obedience of these ancient Jews in following the one true God.

The greatest thing about these Jews though is not that they gave us all of these gifts but that they were willing to take a chance on God and allow themselves to be used by Him. Not for things that would necessarily make their immediate lives better but for things that would fulfill God’s purposes.
I’m trying to stay away from direct quotes in my blogs but today I will finish with this.

“In a cyclical world, there are neither beginnings nor ends. But for us, (here in western culture) time had a beginning, whether it was the first words of God in the Book of Genesis, when “in the beginning God created heaven and earth,” or the Big Bang of modern science, a concept that would not have been possible without the Jews. Time, which had a beginning, must also have an end. What will it be? In the Torah (Genesis through to Deuteronomy) we learn that God is working his purposes in history and will effect its end, but in the Prophets (Joshua through Judges) we learn that our choices will also affect this end, that our inner disposition toward our fellow human beings will make an enormous difference in the way this end appears to us.
Unbelievers may wish to stop for a moment and consider how completely God – this Jewish God of justice and compassion – undergirds all our values and that it is just possible that human effort without this God is doomed to certain failure.”


Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Power of Words

Since the purpose of my blog is to avoid stagnation and stimulate brain activity or learn, I want to make brief mention of something I have learned many times but was reminded of today. Hopefully by writing it down it will stay with me a little longer.

A close friend of mine gave me a sincere compliment today that was worth way more than I think he realized. It’s amazing how powerful saying just a few words can be. It gave me hope, joy, confidence, and an appreciation for my friend. I’m sure it gave me a few more benefits that I’m not even realizing. When was the last time I gave out a compliment? If I can cause this kind of reaction in someone else I should just be looking for these opportunities constantly. I know this isn’t something I consciously try to do but I think it should be if the outcome is this good.

Today I will be on the lookout to give honest meaningful compliments! (I had to add honest and meaningful because I often hear compliments that are nice but I just don’t believe are sincere.) If you are reading this then why don’t you try to do the same?



Am I A Thief?

Let’s imagine that there are one or two people who are reading this who don’t have a clue who I am. Maybe I’m just stroking my ego a bit to think that but let’s just pretend. For those people here is just enough background to make sense of this post.

I have a great and unusual job. I play in a band full time and travel around North America 10-20 days per month. We recently did a short tour through Ontario where we had the opportunity to tell people about World Vision and what they do. Most people know of World Vision and that you can sponsor kids with them but it’s always difficult to try and give a good enough explanation of what they do and where they are working so that people will really understand. I’m not sure I fully understand what the AIDS pandemic really means but I know enough about it that I’m willing to part with my riches in order for an organization like World Vision to help.

The reason that I bring all of this up is because of something I read in the book I’m still working on “The Gifts Of The Jews” by Thomas Cahill. Here’s what it says,

“if you have more than you need, you are a thief, for what you “own” is stolen from those who do not have enough”

More than I need . . . Hmmmmmm . . . What is it that I need? . . . Do I have more? . . . Am I stealing from those that don’t have enough? . . .

I know this is pretty extreme but if you think about it in the context of our societies or countries maybe we are thieves. It never feels like we can make a difference in these big situations but the only way I believe we can is to do as much as we can with what we are given. Whether through our talents or position or finances or influence we need to become informed and get active.



Saturday, April 09, 2005

God Prefers Unique?

I’m currently reading a book called “The Gifts of the Jews” by Thomas Cahill. This is the beginning of a list of books I’m planning on reading to help give me a better understanding of the history of Western Culture. I’m thinking I already have somewhat of a handle on the Jewish people since I have read and continue to read the Bible but being the methodical kind of guy that I am I decided I would start at the beginning of Hugh Hewitt’s recommended list. So here I am.

I’m currently reading about the call of Abram (aka Avram or eventually Abraham). This book caused me to think about this whole passage from Genesis in a different way. The author explains the mentality of people of that time and shows how unusual it was for a man like Abram to take his family and possessions and leave his homeland.
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’”

The mentality of the people of Avram’s time was to stay where you are and meditate on the past, learning from your ancestors. The fact that he was doing something totally different from his forefathers would have made him a fool to his contemporaries. The fact that he was leaving with no real destination besides, “The land that I will show you” also made him a fool. In fact it is Abrams ‘being different’, his personality and individuality, that allows him to get to the place of encountering God and fostering a relationship with him. If he had heard God’s call but thought “That’s not how things work around here. I need to stay in my homeland and learn from my ancestors how life works.” Abram would not have had a relationship at all.

Man do I love this view! I’ve always been a guy who has done things kinda differently. Some people encouraged this in me and others thought I needed to be more ‘uniform’. Either way, this tells me that God prefers us to be unique. I haven’t found this to be something that is encouraged in the church. I guess when people are ‘unique’ things can change and change is tough for everyone, especially the church! I think this book is finally ‘grabbing’ me!!



Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Making Oaths

If you are reading this then chances are you know me and you know that I am a follower of Jesus. What that means exactly is that Jesus rules my life. Or I'm doing what I can to give control of my life to Him because I believe He knows what direction is best for me. That's a simplified explanation but that's basically what it is. So in an effort to become a better Jesus follower I want to talk about oaths.
I made an oath to God at age 14 when I became a full fledged member of The Salvation Army church. Now after talking to my brother in law - Suburban Outpost - he made it clear to me how important oaths - or covenants - are to God. Maybe I can get him to respond to this with some of the verses he referenced to me. Part of the oath I made was to "abstain from the use of all alcoholic drink" which is why I haven't had a sip of an alcoholic beverage to this day. There are other parts of this oath that I have not been so vigilant about and have not followed. So this brought up the question a couple of days ago as to whether or not we should be making oaths with God? Or should God just be the one who makes an oath? He at least can keep it. I think the oaths we make are often out of our reach. Should we not just "Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’;"? This way we can avoid the whole problem with breaking oaths! There are oaths we make that make sense to me like wedding vows or a child's dedication or baptism. In fact these are with people and God! Now I really feel like I don't know what I'm talking about. I guess if I'm living a life where my yes is yes and no is no then maybe these oaths are just external ways of having acccountability with others for my decisions. Next time I make an oath, (I say next time because I think that it is likely inevitible) I will be as sure as humanly possible it is something I can uphold without question.


Sunday, April 03, 2005


OK, just to keep you in the loop. I'm trying to keep up with a reading list I put together after reading Hugh Hewitt's "In, But Not Of". Basically the idea is to get a grasp on the history of western culture. This way we can hopefully understand why certain things happen the way they do. Plus it gives us a deeper understanding of where we came from which I'm discovering is way more important than I thought. One of the guys on my blog list on the right - Dr. Grant - is the guy who has really got me thinking this way. So anyway here's where I'm starting. The Gifts of The Jews: How A Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels – Thomas Cahill.
So far it hasn't captured me like I hoped it would but hopefully it will get there. I'll keep you posted.




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