HELLO!!!! It’s been WAY TOO LONG.
It is a lot harder to keep up on my blogs than I expected it to be…there is SO MUCH going on here! I feel really strongly that I need to share everything I’m learning with as many people as I can, but there isn’t even enough time to tell my parents over the phone or write in my own journal for that matter. So I’ll be sharing the most important and exciting things each week. Well…HOPEFULLY each week. I’ll try to make more time to write here.
Scroll down two paragraphs if you wanna get down to the nitty gritty. Scroll to the “Negev desert” section for some spiritual thoughts!! (also, if pictures are up-side-down and whatnot, I’m sorry.)
So, over these past two weeks I have had a lot of super enlightening classes, beautiful adventures, and I feel like I grow spiritually each day more than I expected to! The professors here are INCREDIBLY qualified and are seriously experts on the Old and New Testament, geography of Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, and experts on their culture and traditions…I guess it’s only logical though since they all have doctorates. I really admire the professors I have here. Since we’re with them all time in classes, all meals, and all field trips, they’re not just our professors–they’re our friends. I love it.
I’m trying to take advantage of every possible opportunity here so I don’t waste any time! So, I’m in the ward choir and a “cathedral choir” where I’ll be singing with a small group of people from the center in different cathedrals throughout our time here. I’m also part of the Exercise and Fitness committee and I’ve taught a Samoan dance class as well as a yoga class!! It’s SO MUCH FUN and the people here are so down-to-earth and fun so they make it even better. I’ve also been following through with my goal of working out every day, so I’m pumped about that. I’ve been sleeping better too and that, coupled with working out every day, has given me a new energy and drive to be more diligent with my time each day. Going to bed and waking up early seriously has improved my happiness, diligence, level of energy, level of spirituality, my memory, productivity, and my overall health! Ten out of ten, highly recommend.
IF I DON’T STAY ON TOP OF MY BLOG AS MUCH AS I WANT TO, FOLLOW MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL AND WATCH THAT INSTEAD. 🙂 My Youtube Channel
So, highlights of the week(s):
JERICHO: Oldest City in the World! I thoroughly enjoyed this trip because it was amazing to me to see the oldest man-made structure in the world (AROUND TEN THOUSAND YEARS OLD!!):
We also saw the remains of what may be the fallen wall of Jericho that fell after Joshua’s Israelite army surrounded, marched, and blew trumpets around its walls. SUPER COOL.
Jericho is called the “City of the Moon” because it’s surrounded by a crescent-shaped mountain range. This range also includes what is traditionally known as the “Mount of Temptations”, where Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn stone into bread while He was fasting for 40 days.
This is a monastery called St. George’s Monastery.
This is my friend, Ella. AYYY
Check out my vlog about Jericho: JERICHO
The Garden of Gethsemane:
It was kind of hard to focus on feeling at peace while I was here because this garden is right next to a main road and there are a lot of tourists who walk through the garden. However, I found a more secluded area where I prayed and it was a very special moment for me. I know that Christ truly did suffer for all of our sins, pain, and sorrow. I know that somewhere around this garden He truly did atone for us so that we have the ability to repent and be forgiven of our sins. He wants to help us be pure, feel peace, and return to God’s presence again. Never forget that.
Something cool I learned is that Gethsemane comes from the Hebrew words that mean “oil press”. Just as olives need a lot of weight and pressure to become oil, Jesus Christ took on the weight of the world and He bled from every pore. Oil was very precious during that time, just as Christ is to us then and now.
Also, these are my friends Allie and Ryan. AYYY
I’m so short on time, so I’ll make this quick:
The Dome of the Rock:
I didn’t have much time here because it was time for the Call to Prayer, but I’ll be going back. Its calligraphy and architecture seriously amazed me!! It’s just so beautiful and I can’t wait to get a better look. Also, this is my friend John. AYY
The Western Wall: I already talked about it in my last post (shout out to my last post…check it out) So, here’s a picture of it from when I went back this week.
Tel Arad: This was one of my favorite places too because we saw one of the communities that the King of Jerusalem put as a look-out fort so they could keep invaders from going straight to Jerusalem. Here, there was a temple where they worshiped and gave sacrifices to God at an altar. They also had a room where only the High Priest could go called the Holy of Holies. This is me in front of it (yayyy). Further down from that area, there were more ruins from a Canaanite community that had been there and already left before the Israelites got to Tel-Arad. It seriously got butterflies when I walked around those ruins because 1. I FREAKING LOVE ROCKS and 2. It was an amazing feeling to imagine a group of people actually walking, breathing, laughing, crying, playing, working, and praying in that area thousands of years ago.
Last place for this blog: Negev Desert: This is the desert that the Israelites wandered in for 40 years. FORTY YEARS, PEOPLE! It is very, very beautiful but I would prefer not to live there for 40 years. I understand that it was a hard time for them, even though God still took care of them and gave the manna and water to live off of. Sometimes, God gives us opportunities in life where we don’t understand the “why” behind our suffering. What I learned from this story is that God not only gives us time to learn and grow from these experiences, but He also helps us through them. As He helps us, if we decide to trust in Him and be grateful despite the hardships we face, we will strengthen our relationship with Him more than we imagined possible. Through suffering and struggle, God strengthens us and we can know Him on a deeper, more personal level because He is all we have.
I have so much more I want to write but it’s almost 11 here and I should go to bed…To finish, I want to share a thought I had as I read in Judges chapter 2. The Lord advises the Israelites to get the Canaanites out of Jerusalem so that they don’t corrupt the generations to come. However, since they didn’t listen to the Lord, generations later the Israelites “didn’t know the Lord” and “didn’t know of His dealings with their fathers” (or they didn’t know about the miracles He had performed with their ancestors). Because of this, they also worshipped different gods, which “angered” the Lord. So, the Lord sent them afflictions and tribulations so they would remember to turn to Him. However, He also sent them judges to teach them the truth so they could be taught about Him.
Here’s the deal, the Lord loves us. Why would He punish us if He loves us?
Welp, let’s read verse 18: “And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.”
The Hebrew root for the word “repented” here means “to be sorry”, “moved to pity”, or “have compassion”.
The Lord doesn’t like being harsh with us in order to turn us back to Him, but He has to sometimes because of our stubbornness or ignorance. He may have sent them tribulations, but He sent them a way to learn about Him and change their lives so that they worshipped Him and lived the commandments. When He saw that they suffered greatly, He even let off a little because He felt so much compassion for them.
God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever”. If He loved his human creations back then, He still loves us now. When we go through troubles, let’s remember that He LOVES us and only desires for us to return to Him. Sometimes we get stuck in our ways or don’t have the courage to get out of a spiritual rut, but the Lord prods us along with both good and “bad” experiences.
Let us look to God with more loving eyes and understand that He only wants us to have eternal life and salvation at His side. I know that He lives and is very aware of our wants, needs, sorrows, secrets, happiness, thoughts, and even our deepest desires.
I hope this strengthened someone this week. Keep pushing forward with faith in Him and love for both God and everyone around us!! Use your time in this life for GOOD and keep making the world a better place!!!!
overlooking The Valley of Elah, where David beat Goliath.
This is me with super creepy eyes in the biggest dove-raising cave in Israel! (housed around 2,000 of those babies!)
Kenna, Sam (my roomie) and myself chillin at some ruins
Christine, my roomie, and myself chillin in Jericho (also, when i say “chillin” i mean it literally because everywhere is so windy and chilly…)
me with a statue that looks like…well, we all know what it looks like.
My Nike Pals: (clockwise from myself…) John, Jake, Matt, Chrisine. #NikeCrew
signed my name under the Jerusalem center w/everyone else. hardhats or nuthin’.
Tried this pizza thing. Wasn’t all that good, but usually the food here is seriously good!! (especially the pita bread, hummus, persimmons, and dates!!!)
Inside this HUUUGE cave (this isn’t even a quarter of the size of the cave) called “bell caves” where settlers found that limestone underneath the first layer was super soft so they built these enormous caves. They started by carving a circle and then making it a progressively bigger opening as they got deeper…INCREDIBLE!