Sunday, 29 May 2011

Latin Background Summaries

So you've probably noticed (anyone that actually reads this) that my recent posts have all been work-related. Well, that's 'cause it's exam time, and all my focus is on studying. Only one more week - I promise. This is also to do with my Latin exam, but may be slightly more interesting than confusing summaries that only really make sense if you already know the grammar (in which case, you really don't need them ;-p)

What I'm writing now, are summaries on Roman Background readings. When you learn a new language, it's useful to know something about the culture that speaks the language. This is true for ancient as well as modern languages. And thankfully, we know a fair amount about Roman culture, even though it no longer exists in this form.

The following are summary points taken from passages in the textbook we used: The Oxford Latin Course: Part III, (ed. Balme, M & Morwood, J - 2nd edition)

Brutus & Cassius (37)
  • Brutus & Cassius fled from Rome almost immediately after Caesar's death
  • They claimed to have acted in the name of freedom from dicatatorship, but meant power would be restored to the aristocracy
  • History depicts Cassius unfavourably, Shakespeare shows two sides to him: he is "sincere in his hatred of tyranny"
  • Brutus is more likeable - drawn unwillingly into the plot, he is a geniune philosopher as well as a soldier. He roused up the young students of Athens to join his cause.
  • Brutus was also a writer, writing a book on virtus
Octavian returns to Italy (38)
  • The moment Octavius heard of Caesar's death, he rushed back to Italy
  • As Caesars' heir, he began to promote himself and changed his name to C. Julius Caesar Octavianus.
  • He quickly aroused the jealousy of Antony, who saw him a young upstart.
  • The senate tried to use him to destroy Antony. After he succeeded, they tried to brush him aside.
  • The 19 year-old would have none of this. He demanded and won the consulship, for which the minimum age had been 43.
  • In 42 BC, with Octavian taken ill, Antony won the battle of Phillipi
  • While Ant. established peace in the East, Oct. began to find land for the veterans by confiscating the farms of farmers who had not supported him
  • Tension between Ant and Oct grew as Ant's wife and brother supported the farmers
  • Civil War was imminent on Ant's return to Italy, but they managed to effect a truce.
The Confisctions (39)
  • The confiscations were devastating for the Romans. Horace's family, and perhaps even Vergil, suffered lost their farms
  • Vergil describes the sense of loss in two poems: They speak of how the dispossessed feel, either having to work as servants of the new landowners, or having been forced to find a new home
But the rest of us must go from here and be dispersed - 
To Scythia, bone-dry Africa, the chalky spate of the Oxus,
Even to Britain - that place at the very world's end.
  • Despite Ocavian's ruthlessness during this time, ten years later he would be it's patron
  • Now he improved roads, reduced crime and encouraged poets who were some of country-folk whose farms he'd siezed
Cleopatra (48)
  • Came to the throne of Egypt as joint-hier with her brother on their father's death
  • Was exiled by her brother, but restored with Caesar's help
  • She had a son by Caesar, Caesarion. The mother and child lived in a villa in Rome till Caesar's death. They then returned to Egypt
  • 3 years later she first met
  • Antony as he was establishing matters in the East
  • They had twins and perhaps a third child before he left her to make peace with Octavian
  • Four years later, Ant returned to the East, leaving his wife Octavia and publicly declaring himself Cleopatra's husband
  • Octavian was able to use this as fuel against Ant and Cleopatra against whom he and the senate declared war
(This story is obviously more complex, but the rest of it is in the Latin part of the book and is not necessary for this summary)

Caesar Augustus (49)
  • Rome, it seems, had had enough of Civil War. Tired of the instability, the people welcomed Octavian as their hero and saviour.
  • They awarded him the name Augustus ("worthy of honour and reverence")
  • Poets such as Vergil and Horace praised him, Vergil even linking him to the family of his hero Aeneas (prince of Troy and founder of the precursor to Rome)
  • Many celebrated him as the peace-maker. The Gates of War, in Janus' temple were shut for the first time in years and an "Altar of Peace" set up near the Tiber.
  • By taking the name princeps and not rex, Augustus transformed the Republic to an Empire, but most of the people did not seem to mind.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Umndeni Wami

Okay, I admit that this is random. But just for fun, I thought I'd post my isiZulu oral that I'm doing in class tomorrow. It's very simple ('cause I've only done one semester of the language) and basically tells of my family, my dad's 60th birthday party, my sister and I squabbling over a hair brush and the family holiday we are going on next week. We had to use certain grammatical forms (including direct commands, hence the squabble, the recent past and future tense, and non-verbal predicates).

Umndeni Wami

NginguAjnos. Ngingumfundi. Nginomndeni omuhle kakulu. Nginomama nobaba nomfowethu nodadewethu. Anginabo omkhulu. Umama ungutisha futhi ubaba uyi-Urban Designer. Umfowethu igama lakhe nguTenebrous, futhi udadewethu igama lakhe nguArwen. UTeneb uyafunda i-IT kodwa uArwen usesikoleni. Sinezinja izimbili. Amagama lazo nguJuliet noJasmine. Ziyabukeka. Abazali bayazona izinja. Zithanda ukulala embhedeni. Azithandi ukudlala phandle.

NgoMgqibelo ubaba wenze iphathi. Uneminyaka engu60. Asiyibukanga i-rugby. Abantu abaningi beze ephathini. Sidle uboeboetie nobreyani namameatballs.

Udadewethu uyahlupha kancane. Uyantshontsha ibhulashi lezinwele zami.
NgoMqibelo ekuseni uthe “Ajnos, mawungiboleka ibhulashi.”
Ngithe, “Cha, liphi ibhulashi lakho?”
UArwen uthe, “Angazi. Angikwazi ukulithola”
Ngithe, “Cha, uzolahla ibhulashi lami futhi.”

Ntambama ibhulashi lisegunjini lami lokulala. Udadewthu ulintshonshile.
Ngimemeze, “Arwen, mus' ukuntshonsha ibhulashi. Libuyise!”
Uthe, “Mus' ukungikhuza!” Ubalekile.

Kodwa ngithanda udadewethu. Ngithanda umndeni wonke. Ngesonto elizayo sizohamba eholidini. Sizohamba eDrakensburg. Asizuhamiba sodwa. O-anti nomalume bazohamba futhi. Sizohamba ngezimoto. Sizohlala impelasonto yonke.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Seeds, death and fruit

Here's a little something I've been meaning to pen (uh..finger?) for a while. It's rambly and not well thought out nor well edited. But I thought it appropriate.

I made this simple graphics set for Easter on TLC. The verse had come to me about a week before, and I thought it suitable. Little did I know how appropriate this verse would be at that time. I made and put up this siggy on the day before Good Friday. It just so happened that it was also the day after I was told I would not get the scholarship to Oxford. My world was turned upside down and I wrote my thoughts and feelings at that moment in the piece entitled "When a dream dies". When I put up this set, the irony that I should have chosen this particular verse was not lost on me - but I chose to ignore it. I even posted a disclaimer stating that it had nothing to do with my current circumstances, which was true to a degree. I hadn't chosen the verse because of my circumstances, and I didn't really want to know about or accept the truth of this verse as it might apply to me at that particular point.

Of course God doesn't always worry about what we want. And this verse - being his very own words holds truth whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. God was speaking to me even though I was reluctant to hear it. While literally, this verse is looking forward to Jesus as the seed which would die to bring new life, it seems that it is a universal truth (one God was kind enough to place in the very fabric of nature for us as an example): to create beauty, or an improved life, a kind of struggle or death must take place first. The caterpillar must struggle its own way out of a cocoon before it emerges as a beautiful butterfly, a woman must experience excruciating pain to bring forth a new human life, and a seed must be buried in the ground and die before it can emerge as a life-giving plant.

I had a dream. I'm not big on having dreams, and in the context of the world, it wasn't the most audacious dream; but this was mine - the one I wanted and I felt it had been given to me as a gift, along with hope. Then, out of the blue and unexpectedly the dream died. It was stolen away from me and I was left with doubt and uncertainty and anger along with much confusion. But I'd said all along that my dream was in God's hands, for him to do with as he pleases. It's hard not to snatch it back out of his hands when you realise that he wants to do something different with it that what you had planned. But I bore my grief, I was well supported, and though it was very tough, I had no choice but to accept and watch as the Lord took my dead dream and buried it. I appreciated the fact that this happened at Easter. I think it was the first time I understood what the disciples must have gone through. Like them, I could not see how anything good might come out of this, and yet now, as it was then, Jesus' words held true.

The death of a seed leads to fruit. So too with the death of my dream. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what that fruit is, but there are a few signs I'm already seeing. When we plant a dead seed, we cannot always tell what type of fruit the plant will bear. Sometimes, like with nut trees, the fruit resembles the seed. Other times, the fruit takes an appearance which is startlingly different. Looking at the seed alone, one cannot tell. What you can almost always predict, though, is that the plant will bear more fruit than the one seed that produced it. In other words, a seed might be useful in itself. For example, it may contain elements that would be useful in health or industry. Burying such a seed seems like a waste - until you realise that its death, will bring about more fruit, and perhaps additional benefits (such as leaves with even more uses than the seed itself).

My dream died and was buried, but two weeks later a sprout formed, and then a shoot, followed by a single fruit - a nut-type seed that was identical to my original dream. In essence, my dream was restored to me - brought back to life. But the death resulted in more than just a restored seed. This plant has leaves and flowers with properties I'm only beginning to discover. One of them, was that it bore a second seed. If I had not watched my dream die, another girl may have had hers die forever. But now there is an extra seed. Dead seeds can multiply, and more can enjoy their fruit.

Other results of my dream dying are a renewed faith in God's supremacy, strengthened friendships with those who suffered alongside me, and especially the confidence and knowledge that my dream is really what I want, and the future I should seek. Only when something is taken away from you, with the possibility of no return, do you fully learn how much it means to you. If I had doubts about my dream before it died, they have vanished. The plant my dream bore has produced at least three new fruits: faith, love and hope. Faith in God's supremacy, the love of friends who supported me, and the hope of a dream renewed, with the knowledge that it is a real dream and not some fleeting fancy.

Woah...that got a lot longer than I intended, I guess I should wrap things up. And what better way to do so, than with our Lord's own words:

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies,it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honour." John 12:24-26

Monday, 9 May 2011

My Hedgehog Collection - Part One

I know my TLC friends have already seen these, but I figured it was time for a new post, so here are some pictures of my dear hedgehog collection. These are hedgies I have collected for the last 13 years or so - each have their own name.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Thoughts from Sunday's Sermon

 Exodus 15:22-27 (NKJV,

So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.

As Christians we sometimes go through difficult times. Things are looking good; God may have just performed a miraculous miracle, then suddenly we find ourselves out in the wilderness and God seems to have abandoned us. We might find ourselves, is the Israelites did, in a place like Mara - a place which seems to promise refreshment and relief, yet when we bend down to take a sip of water, we find that it's a fraud. The water looks good to drink, but it is really bitter.

We go through various bitter periods in life. They hurt us and sting us, and we can't understand why God would allow this to happen. But he knows what he is doing. The Lord was teaching the Israelites to depend on him and not what the Wilderness offered. It was only he who could make the bitter sweet. And he did - in the most unexpected way.

So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. 

A tree? The Lord told Moses to throw a tree in the water to make it sweet? Okay, maybe the translation's not quite accurate and it was a large branch - or a small sapling. But either way, God used something that seemed quite arbitrary, quite ordinary to remove the bitterness and replace it with sweetness. He has a habit of doing that. Of using the most unexpected person or event, to help us through our bitter experiences. It's a way of showing both his power and his love for us. The tree itself possessed no special properties with which it could sweeten water. This showed the Israelites that it was not nature, nor Moses' wisdom that cured the waters, but God's mighty strength which could use something useless, possibly even dead, to achieve his purpose.
There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am
the LORD who heals you.”

This was not the last test the Israelites would face, and not the last they would fail. Thank God that, as with the Israelites, he is willing to forgive us when we fail these tests. That despite the way we grumble at him, he still steps in, when the time is right, and makes the water's sweet.

A final thought. Perhaps it was not coincidence that the Lord used a tree to sweeten the waters of Mara. This was not the last time he would use a tree. There was another tree, this time a truly lifeless piece of wood, that would be used not only to sweeten the worst bitterness in our lives - that brought about by sin and death - but to bring life to all who will believe.

God's word is alive, and very little ever happens by coincidence. May the Waters of Mara remind us of this as we go through our daily life, with it's bitterness, difficulties and unexpected blessings.

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Words of Comfort

So I've now written a couple of pieces about how I've been feeling lately, my fears and struggles and doubts. But this time hasn't been all bad. I've had much comfort and encouragement from various people. This post is a tribute (and reminder to myself) of those words of comfort.

Words of wisdom from TLC friends

From BioMum
It is so hard when a dream dies. A little part of you dies too. Over the years, I have folded away many dreams...I don't think it is wrong to grieve as long as you do not become angry or bitter at God. Hold out your pain and grief to Him and ask Him to comfort and keep you through this time. All through your writing, you are affirming the truths you know. Even though you do not know yet why this dream has to be put away, you know the One who holds the future. And He knows you.

From Violamom
I, too, could count several killed dreams, sudden shocks, out-of-the-blue lightening bolts in my life--and without exception, they all were used by the Lord (on all levels) to deepen and strengthen my faith. The grieving you are experiencing right now is part of the process, and completely normal. So do NOT beat yourself up!! You are doing all the right are grounded in the Truth, and I encourage you to walk by faith, not by sight. Keep pouring out your heart to your Shepherd--He's been there, and knows all you are feeling, and He can handle whatever anger and doubt and hurt you want to hurl at Him. And you already know we're here for you, too, and our friendship is just the tiniest glimpse of His massive affection for you.

From Petra
I've been mulling over a response to this for some time now. You'd think words would come easy to a linguist, but it's quite the opposite, more often than not.

I suppose the best thing I can say is to remember the art of a mosaic - something had to be dashed to pieces first in order for it to take shape. And no matter what shape it takes, there is always still something of the beauty and the wonder of what was broken there within its depths - it simply manifests itself differently, with a new beauty and wonder all its own.

Few know better than a hedgehog that a prickly and painful exterior can hide something sweet and wonderful beneath it.

From Emperor's Child
When Edmund and Lucy found themselves on the Dawn Treader, they probably really wished they could have left their cousin behind. But those of us who know Aslan's plan for that voyage are very glad, even for their sakes, that they didn't get their way in the matter. Someday, when you know the whole story, you will be glad you didn't get this scholarship.

From Queen Lucy of Narnia (citing God's Smuggler)
"We don't know where we're going but–"
"But we're glad we're going there together."

Encouragement from God's Word

Cited by BioMum
Psalm 34:18
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 131 Childlike Trust in the LORD.
A Song of Ascents, of David.
1 O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.

Cited by Emperor's Child
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
Cited by BecauseofHim
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. For I know that the LORD is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases He does. All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. He does great things which we cannot comprehend. As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power in judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts. The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

Thanks to all who have shared these words of comfort with me. Thanks also to Steward and Niffum and others on TLC chat who have comforted me in discussions, or through your silent encouragement and prayers. You have been lifting and sustaining me through this time and helped me to keep my heart grounded in my Lord.