Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Sun of Nazareth

            Today I watched the sunrise and the sunset on the city of Nazareth.  I love the spirit of this town.  I can’t really explain it but I feel a connection to the people here.  We have been staying at a convent for the past two days that has a rooftop view of the city.  I decided to wake up early this morning to watch the sunrise.  With scriptures in hand I headed for the roof, I can’t really think of a better way to start off a day. 
            Our convent is across the street from the Church of the Annunciation, which commemorates the visitation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary to announce to her that she would carry the Christ child. (Luke 1:26)  Nazareth was the hometown of Jesus.  He grew up here as a boy playing games with other boys in the village.  As I walked up and down the hills and saw the view of the valley below I tried to imagine what it would have looked like for him. 
            But things were not always great for Christ in Nazareth.  After his forty day fast in the wilderness and being tempted by the devil he was ready to begin his ministry as the Messiah and what better place to start then his hometown.  He read a verse of Isaiah talking the Messiah to which Christ said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” to which the men in the synagogue said, “This is not this not Joseph’s son?”  Can you imagine how crazy this situation must have seemed to the people of Nazareth?  Jesus, the boy next door, the son of Joseph the carpenter was claiming to be the Messiah.  They tried to throw him off a cliff for heresy but he was able to walk away and he left for Capernaum.  (Luke 4: 16-32)  It was never mentioned that Christ returned to the city of his youth after that.  I am sure not being accepted in Nazareth was a great source of sorrow for him.
            But I am also sure he is happy that there are many men and women now living in Nazareth, some who might even be the descendents of the people who rejected Christ, now proudly embrace his name.  They are the Arab Christians who live in this humble city. I felt very welcome among the Arab Christians. 
            Thanks to a friend I made at a corner grocery store I heard about the lighting of the Nazareth Christmas Tree.  After more then an hour of waiting and a missed dinner with the Nuns at the convent the tree was lit accompanied with a sky full of fireworks.  On that night I joined about 300 fellow Christians, myself being the only white person in the crowd, in celebrating the birth of our Savior in his hometown.  He may have been rejected here once but no longer, he watches over this city that I am sure of. .  After that some friends and I found a rooftop to watch the sunset.  I couldn’t help but feel a connection with Christ, envisioning him watching the sunset over the same hills.  
            From my friend at the corner grocery store to the lighting of the Nazareth Christmas tree to eating some really good shawarma I think I have fallen in love with this city set on a hill.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What are you all so worried about?

As my time here in Jordan comes to an end I am forced to look back and examine what I have learned from my study of Arabic.  My experiences here over the past four months have only confirmed the importance of persistence and the beauty of worry.  I have learned that over the past few years if you want something in life you need to persistently work towards that goal.  My most recent goal was Arabic.  I know I could study Arabic my entire life and never feel satisfied with my abilities. But I feel I have reached a benchmark even though the path of Arabic is endless.  I accomplished something that in the beginning I truly doubted if I strong enough or smart enough to complete.  It's a good feeling to have completed something you thought was impossible. 

Struggling to lose weight, getting into BYU, studying Arabic and other trials have taught me not to let hardships affect me negatively.  It's OK to worry, in fact it is a necessary part of life .  Worry is what drives me forward.  It is my motivation but you can't let the worry overcome you.  If you worry to much you become bogged down and you won't progress.  Too much worry can be debilitating, the right amount can be an impetus.  I think we all need a healthy douse of worry to push us forward.  If you're not worried about the future why would you do anything to change it?  

I have learned that when you are presented with a obstacle, don't freak out.  Take a step back, remove your self from the situation and analyze it, find the best way around it and then move forward with faith that things will work out.  Because here's the secret, they will.  

My sister reminded me of a scripture in 1 Nephi, "the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty . . . " or at least, quietly persistent. It's the combination of being worried and persistent at the same time that leads to success.

 I am worried about my future, but that is a good thing.