Refining Fire

These past two days have been exhausting. Out of 48 hours I have spent 23 of them out in the field. That’s 23 hours of class time! Crazy. It’s wearing on me though, and even though I got over 9 hours of sleep last night I am spent. I feel like I’m starting to hit a wall. Up until now I’ve been on cloud nine, just enjoying being here in Israel and making the most of every moment. However, the past few days I’ve been pretty down. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m missing home or because I’ve had a few academic disappointments, but nevertheless I’ve had a few tough days. I’m really trying to get out of this funk because I don’t want to waste anytime that I get here because I only have 2 1/2 months left, and before I know it I’ll be home and wishing that I would have made the most of these days. Thankfully I have great friends who are doing their best to get me back in my groove and back to my normal self.Okay, well enough of the negative, here’s some of the great things that have been happening here. Last Monday my Parables of Jesus class took a field trip to the Museum of the Great Samaritan and got to talk about the Parable right there. It was a great experience because my professor is a Jewish Rabbi, so he really gets us to think about the parable and ask questions about it. I enjoy the class because it’s open discussion, so I get to hear different opinions and learn about the parables in a new way. The Museum was full of mosaics and those are always a cool sight. The best part of the day was climbing on top of some Crusader ruins across the Museum. We climbed up the hill and stood atop the ruins while being able to see Jerusalem in the distance. That was a great moment because this was what I was expecting when I came to Jerusalem! Plus the weather was phenomenal, and being able to sit in the sun and explore hundreds of years old structures made the day fantastic.

I (FINALLY!) made it to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher this week! This is the place that remembers the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It’s a magnificent church, and it is ginormous! We walked into little rooms full of caves and then wandered deep into the recesses of the church. We didn’t wait in line to go inside where He was supposed to be buried, but we did go up and see the place that remembers where Jesus died. It just really hit me that this is the place that my Savior died. It was one of those moments where I’m struck by the enormity of where I’m standing. I almost felt like dropping to my knees and worshiping the Lord, but I instead just thanked the Lord for what He did for me that day.

Hiking Mt. of Temptation

On Saturday we had a field study for my History of the Church in the East class. This is the class that I’ve been struggling with, but I am learning so much because it’s all new information to me. It’s so interesting to see the differences in the Church of the East and the Church in the West, and I’m really getting a view on it that is not taught in the West. I feel like the Church in the East is looked on negatively in our churches in the West, but there is so much we can learn from them. We had to read a book called Mysticism in the Church of the East, and it really opened my eyes to the role of spirituality in the church, and how much we lack it in the West. I would suggest the book to anyone who wants to understand the mysticism in the East, and get a stronger understanding of the relationship between spirituality and theology.

Romanian Monastery

On that day we visited 11 monasteries. Yes, 11! It was a day that was packed full with information, but I appreciated all the variety we got to see in all the churches. The monks and nuns were hospitable, and we got to see the beauty of these places all around Israel (we visited some in Bethlehem, Jericho, and Abu Gosh).  We hiked up the Mount of Temptation in Jericho to a monastery. The father there is an older man who is in bad health because he has been mugged numerous times by the youth of Jericho. Quite sad situation, actually. However, the monastery was built out of the rock on the side of the mountain and full of caves. The father told us that he doesn’t have much food and water, but all he needs is Jesus and he is happy. That really touched my heart. Here is this man, giving all he has to God, and people are taking away all that he has. Yet, he can still turn back and thank God and most of all, be happy. WOW! The father also took each of us aside and blessed us with a cross and touched it 5 times on our head and had us kiss it. My professor said in the 20 years she’s been going there he has never done that! We finished the day in a Vesper’s ceremony at a monastery in Abu Gosh. It was all done in French, and it was absolutely magnificent. The singing and liturgy were beautiful, even though we couldn’t understand it. It was a time for us to meditate on God and listen to these dedicated followers of Jesus sing praise to Him. What a powerful night!

Judean Wilderness

That next morning we woke up early and heading out for a field study to the Old Testament area of Benjamin. We started out at an overlook of the Judean Wilderness, where Dr. Wright explained to us stories of the Bible that had taken place in the Wilderness. It was quite funny because at that moment some men from the Bedouin tribe started to ride up on their donkeys and camels to sell us stuff. It’s crazy that they knew we were there just by sensing something was different in the air. I guess that is what happens when you live in the desert all your life. After that we descended down to Jericho, the city of palms. It had been raining and frigid cold in Jerusalem, but when we got down to Jericho there was blue sky and the sun was shining. (The weather here is crazy! It goes from 35 degrees and rainy one day to 65 and sunny the next). We stopped to see the remains of one of Herod’s palaces and a lot of us waded through the rocky creek in bare feet to actually see the remains. I ended up with only a wet pant leg and sore feet, so it was worth it! Other people were not as lucky.

Peter, Amber & I drinking coffee at a monastery on our way to Jericho

After that we stopped for bus lunch (my favorite food here by far) and then went to the Tel of Jericho. Here we got to talk about the story of Jericho on top of where it actually happened. This one really came alive for me. I could almost hear the trumpets in the air and the crumbling of the walls. This was definitely one of the coolest moments of being here so far. Seeing the geography of the land and understanding why Joshua chose to conquer Jericho first opened my eyes a lot. I have a completely different view of the Bible story now because I can picture the event in my mind and everything that was around it.

Jericho!

The last stop of the day was the Tel of Gezer. This place was cool because we could see for miles, all the way to Tel Aviv. Gezer was a place of great importance in the Old Testament times, and it was so fascinating to hear of the stories of the empires that tried to control it. The only reason that Solomon gained control of it was because Pharoah gave the land to one of his daughters and then gave his daughter to Solomon. This is the only example of Pharoah allowing his daughter to live in the place of the husband that Pharaoh gives her to, which shows how powerful Solomon was at that point.

Being here in Jerusalem is such a blessing. Every day when I find myself wanting to complain about not having hot water or the internet crashing, I remind myself that I have absolutely no reason to complain because I’m sitting here in the most beautiful place on Earth. No matter how down I have been the last few days, I’m not allowing myself to wish I was anywhere else but here, because here is where I want to be. There is so much to learn and to grasp from studying the Bible here. I already am rethinking how I look at the Bible and how my faith is lived out. I see it as a refining fire: it can get really tough, but I’m going to come out stronger in the end. No matter how tough the classes are or how dumb I feel amidst all these intelligent and older students, I will come out stronger. And that’s all the reassurance I need right now to get through these struggles.

I start soccer practice tomorrow! I’m terrified, yet so excited at the same time! This is the first coaching position I’ve ever had, and I’m intimidated that these girls are just a little younger than me. However, I know that this is an opportunity to minister to these girls and walk alongside them. I can’t wait to play some soccer and gain relationships with them over these next couple months. Prayers would be appreciated!

Here is a passage about Jerusalem that I can completely understand now: Psalm 102: 13 – 14 ‘You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity.’ Wow, the stones are dear? And even her dust? Amazing!

Shalom,

Liz

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