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Showing posts from October, 2008

"Christian Politics"

OK, one more side-tracked post before I get back to the Egypt trip and Pyramids. It saddens me, really, to hear people continue to hold on to the "Christian Nation" notion whenever they discuss politics. While I agree that one of the motivating factors in the drafting of the Constitution was religious freedom, so was freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom from tyranny, freedom from "taxation without representation". To think that America's Founding Fathers rebelled against the King of England (one type of "Christian Nation" if you recall) to form (another type of) Christian nation, then history is being rewritten. Many people focus on the roll of religion in the lives of our nation's first leaders, yet they did not set out to form a "Christian Nation". Otherwise, this would be a theocracy, not a democracy. As it is, we do live under a democracy, meaning government by the people. Who are the people? They are Christians, Muslim…

World-wide Politics

This is something I have been meaning to write about for a while now. Being overseas during this time of economic crisis and especially during this huge election season, my eyes have really been opened to how stock the rest of the world puts in the USA. American politics, economics, etc. effect the rest of the world in ways of which I had no idea. I never realized just how much prevalence the American presidential elections have throughout the globe. I guess growing up in small-town America, my worldview was limited to that which was directly around me. Now that I am out of the US, I am beginning to realize the extent of American influence. Something else I find interesting is that some Americans are the only people in the world who think John McCain should be elected. Everybody, and I mean everybody, I have talked to - from waiters to street vendors - wants Obama to become president. In other words, if the rest of the world could vote in this election, Obama would win by a landslid…

Alexandria - Home of the Ultramodern, Fireproof Library

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This fortress is built over the foundation of the ancient lighthouse. Th New Library of Alexandria Alexandria was the first city we visited after flying into Cairo. The city was built along the coastline of the Mediterranean by the Greeks and named after, who else?, Alexander the Great. It was not technically part of "Egypt" when it was built because "Egypt" as a nation only consisted of "Black Soil Around the River Nile" as our tour guide, Osman, emphasized quite a bit. Alexandria was once home to one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World - the Lighthouse of Alexandria. It's not there anymore. It fell down a long time ago and a fortress was built over its foundation. We also got to see (but didn't go in) the new library. If you remember your world history, Alexandria was also home to the largest library in antiquity until some moron burned it down in some sort of protest- destroying much of the world's compiled knowledge up to that point…

Faith building in the land of Egypt

It's incredible how much can happen in 8 days. The land of Egypt is so rich, so saturated with history and stories that it would be nearly impossible to take it all in, even with decades of study. Our tour guide, Osman, (who is one of the best men I have ever met) is by far also one of the best tour guides in all of Egypt. He is professional Egyptologist, tour guide, hieroglyphics teacher, and Biblical historian. Not only did he take us around to all the famous sites, but at each one he did his best to tie in all the geography, temples, etc. to the stories in the Bible. I never realized just how much Egypt had to do with the development of Judaism and ultimately Christianity. I would like to start my summary of our trip by recording some of the things I learned that my Sunday school teachers never knew: - The pyramids were seen by Abraham, Joseph (and his entire family), Moses, and Jesus - There is technically more than one Temple. When Judea was overrun and many Jews taken cap…

Out of Egypt

Well, here we are again. Done with yet another trip. Egypt is...where should I start? Beautiful, awesome, inspiring, incredible, amazing, exilerating...you get the point. We got to experience everything from Alexandria to Abu-Simbel. We entered a pyramid at Giza, stared into the mummified face of Ramses II, rode camel across the Nubian desert, cruised along the Nile, and sat in the place where Moses went to school as a prince - jus to name a few of the highlights. There will be more to come about these, but I simply wanted to let everyone know that the trip went well. No one got sick, no one got injured, and everyone had the time of their lives.

Thermopylae - yes, like in the movie 300.

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Just imagine, 250,000 Persians gathered on those hills raining arrows down on the 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians. This is the monument built in honor of King Leonidas of Sparta. Thermopylae: Ok, so everyone probably knows the story of this battle site, but I still find it amazing that 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians defended the pass from 250,000 Persians for 3 days while the rest of Greece was able to gather their forces together and eventually send the invaders back home with their tales tucked between their legs. This is the site of arguably the most important battle in the history of Western civilization. It is theorized that if the Persians had broken through any sooner, the rest of Greece would not have been able to regroup and drive them out. If the Persians had simply swept through Greece as they were intending, the rest of Europe would have been in danger of falling under Persian control as well, and Western Civilization as we know it would have been completely destroyed. __…

Thessaloniki - in the shadow of Olympus

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The remains of the Roman forum in downtown Thessaloniki Monument in honor of Alexander the Great, the founder of the city. Looking down on the city from the Acropolis. You can see Mount Olympus in the background. Thessaloniki: You may not realize it, but Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and had pretty much always been about as important as Athens. At many times throughout its history, Thessaloniki has acted as a sort of second capital. It was established by Alexander the Great in honor of his sister. There aren't as many historical excavations taking place in Thessaloniki simply because it is difficult to excavate a city which has 2million people living on top of it. They are working hard to dig up the places they can, like the Roman forum in the top picture. It was amazing to see how close Mount Olympus is to the city. I never realized where exactly the mountain of the gods was. It is a beautiful range of mountains directly across the bay from the city, and o…

Philippi - I think the Macedonians are calling.

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This is the possible location of the River in which Lydia and the Jailer were baptized. To the right of those steps is the traditional site of the jail in which Paul and Silas were held overnight. This is really the main part of the city. This is all that remains of the Roman forum and the Agora. In the background you can see the remains of a gigantic basilica that was built ca. 400 AD. Philippi: When we first got to Philippi, we started at the river which would have been located outside the western wall of the city. This is the traditional cite where Lydia and other Jews were meeting for worship regularly. It could possibly be the river in which the first European converts were baptized, but it is certainly the river in which thousands of Christians have been baptized over the last several centuries. This is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Christians of every denomination. A formal baptistery has been built into part of the river with a small theater on one side for people …

Vergina - I don't think that hill belongs there.

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The next historical hot spot we visited was Vergina, the home and burial place of King Philip II of Macedon. If you remember your Western Civ., King Philip II was the guy that conquered all of Greece and united the Hellenes under one rule for the first time in their long history. After Philip was assassinated (in a theater no less), his young son, Alexander, took control and conquered the rest of the world, or at least the rest of the Persian Empire. What's cool about this site is that everything is underground. There are parts of the city, mainy burial chambers, that have been excavated and preserved by keeping them hidden under a huge mound of earth, just as they were discovered by the original archaeologists. Apparently they just came across a hill that looked like it wasn't supposed to be there, and they started digging. Among the excavations, though, is a full fledged museum displaying beautiful artifacts - golden wreaths, decorative armor and weaponry, intricate ivory …

Meteora - no, not like the Linkin Park album.

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The next morning on our tour of Norther Greece, we visited a beautiful area called Meteora. These are the famous rock formations in mid-Greece. Upon these rocks that just out of the earth for hundreds of feet are 26 separate monasteries - very few of which are actually still operating. We only had time to visit one of them, which was actually what we would call a convent. It was really cool to see these gigantic structures built in the most obscure places. Until the mid 1900s, the only way to access most of the monasteries was by a basket that could be lowered down on a rope and pulled back up by a winch. I can see why they built them this way. It makes sense to build a structure meant to separate someone from the rest of the world in a location which the world can't access. It was a very overcast day when we visited, as you can tell from the pictures. It was so bad that we would be completely engulfed in clouds while at higher elevation to the point that we could hardly see 20 …

We're Off To See The Oracle, the Wonderful Oracle of Delphi

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We got back a couple days ago from our tour of Northern Greece, during which we visited Delphi, Meteora, Vergina, Berea, Philippi, Kavala (ancient Neapolis), and Thessaloniki. It was a great trip with lots of stuff to see and write about. Hopefully I can stay up with it and fill everyone in before we head to Egypt next Tuesday. Delphi: This was our first stop, which you may recognize from the movie 300. Delphi is the home of the legendary oracle who would be consulted by leaders and businessmen alike. She was a high priestess of Apollo who would go into a subterranean chamber below the Temple of Apollo where there was a crack in the ground along a faultline from which a strange mixture of gases would be released. She would breathe in these gases and go into some sort of trance during which she would mutter incoherently. The priests would then "interpret" these "prophesies" and bring them to the one inquiring. The catch was that the priests would frame the prophesi…

Finishing Up the Greek Cruise

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Wow, it's crazy how things happen so quickly. I've completely neglected this blog, but yes, I am still alive. While I'm here, we do still have classes with quizzes, exams, and papers. I guess that's part of the deal. Anyway, let me just finish off the rest of the Greek Isle Cruise. Patmos: After Ephesus, we shipped off to the island of Patmos, where John was exiled for about 18 months toward the end of his life. Patmos is a beautiful island, bigger than I had expected with lots of trees and scenic hillside towns. A ways up the hill is a cave where tradition says John would sleep, meditate, and write (with the help of a personal scribe whom John took with him into exile I guess). In that cave is a rounded spot in the ground where he would lay his head to sleep and a handhold a couple feet up that he would use to pull himself up. The most touching feature about the cave is a crack across the top where, legend says, the holy trinity came down, because the crack splits…