Saturday, July 23, 2016

After so being there, we came back again

Time is flying too fast. We are less than a week away from my family leaving. I can’t believe it.

The week began with a great field trip. It went so well. We started by going to Mount Tabor. We were the first people up there. We went into the church and sang and spent some time talking about Moses and Elijah there. Then we went to the outside of the church and looked down on where the battle took place between Barak and the Canaanites. The Israelites were led by Deborah, the prophetess. The visibility was incredible, and we could see the whole valley and get a feel for where we were. The students taught us lessons from the story of Deborah and Barak, especially about the power of following God, and about how God is the one to deliver and why it is so important that we realize that God is our deliverer. They did a great job. It was beautiful.

The Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor

Stained Glass Window on Mount Tabor
Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor
Then we went out to a little grove area and talked about the Transfiguration. Again the students did some teaching about the nature of God. I also talked for a while about the glory of God, and how majestic he is, and how we can’t comprehend his glory, but how we can be comforted by knowing our potential. We also spoke of how great it is that glorious Christ condescended to be with us in a veiled, mortal form. We took a little time to think and it was a nice time overall. Mount Tabor was terrific.

Mount Tabor
A small story developed from there. Jacob had gotten a hat from the zoo for his birthday. He accidentally left it at Mount Tabor, he thought in the church. That night we mentioned it to Phil, and he said he would look for it. Jacob told the Skinners about it, and one student was with them, Kayenta. They all looked for it in the church and checked lost and found. Then Kayenta got into one of the 8 vans that run us up and down the mountain. They each have 13 seats. She sat in the back corner, and as she got her backpack off the ground when the ride was over, she noticed something tucked under the seat. It turned out to be Jacob’s hat. What are the odds that with 43 people on the trip, one of the four people who knew to look for the hat, and the one who would ever sit in the back seat where Jacob sat, would sit in the one out of the 104 possible seats, and look underneath and find the hat? As sister Skinner said when she saw it, “God loves that little boy.”

From Mount Tabor we went to Megiddo. This is a big and tremendous site. There is such history here. It controls access to an important trade route, and has been conquered by dozens of people. We went through the story of how Thutmosis III conquered it, saying that “the conquering of Megiddo is like the conquering of 1000 cities.” We also went over how Solomon built the big gate there, which accords with the biblical story. We talked about the destruction by the Assyrians, and I pointed out to them that we were now in territory where our ancestors lived and that some undoubtedly were scattered from this city by the Assyrians. We looked at the huge Canaanite remains. 

Tel Megiddo in the Spring Time

We looked down at the valley and talked about Armageddon. I compared the Ezekiel, Revelation, and 1 Nephi accounts. The 1 Nephi account focuses on the spiritual aspects (I am not sure if it is literal or not), and we talked about what we should learn to prepare for spiritual Armageddon. I think they enjoyed our discussion there. Then we looked at the stables, granaries, etc., and went out the huge water cistern. It was fun.

My class in front of the plains of Megiddo/Armegeddon

The plains of Megiddo/Armegeddon
From there we went to Tel Jezreel. Several significant stories happened here, including the death Naboth as Jezebel and King Ahab killed him to get his vineyard. We also talked about Ahab going to battle from here to Gilead, where he was killed. We also read, and acted out, the story of Jehu coming to Jezreel to kill all the seed of Ahab, including Jezebel. The students seemed to have a good time acting that story out, and we taught some nice lessons about being true to God there. As they were getting on the bus I heard one student say to another “the scriptures just so came to life for me.” Mission accomplished, my week has been made.

The Harod section of the Jezreel Valley as seen from Tel Jezreel

Tel Jezreel
The Harod portion of the Jezreel Valley as seen from Tel Jezreel
From there we went to Ein Harod. We went over the story of Gideon there. At the spring where his men drank we acted the story out a little bit. We had brought small pots, and a few lamps. As I tried to teach them that with God on their side they needn’t worry or stress about things, that with faith they can move forward, knowing that God can conquer anything for us. In doing so I tried to teach it dramatically, smashing a lamp as I made a point. The shards flew and almost hit some students. Whoops! But it was dramatic. Then, as we acted it out, we had them get in groups of three, and one blew a pretend trumpet, one turned on the light of their phone, and the other smashed a small pot. I think it was memorable. I hope people learned the lesson we hoped they would learn, and that the action helped it be more memorable.
Water bubbling up from the Ein Harod (spring of Harod) where Gideon and his men drank water
Sabrina driking from Ein Harod like Gideon

Some of my students drinking from Gideon's spring (ein Harod)
As we went home, I listened to the chatter. It seemed to me that it had been a very successful day. I think the students felt like the places had really come to life for them, and that they had learned lessons and could picture the scriptures better. They seemed to love it, and I was so very happy. My kids seemed to also love it, I think the lessons were learned and came to life for them also.

When we got back we did swimming, and had a very nice time. Phil and Andy came out, and the three of us had some fun in the water together. I couldn’t ask for more enjoyable companions, and that makes all the difference.

We had class the next day. Again I felt like it went really well. I had three hours of class to do, two in a row, a two hour break, and one more. The last hour was planned as a time to catch up. But I was already caught up before we started class, and didn’t have a particularly complex set of lessons, so I was sure we could even get ahead. But knowing we had some time, I let some discussions go deep, and we had a lot of great conversations. We didn’t quite finish at the end of the two hour block, so I thought we would catch up in the third hour. But the discussion was so good that I didn’t catch up then either, in fact I was behind when class ended. But we had a great time, we explored some important issues. I love it when we can do that. We went swimming again, and had a ton of fun as a family doing that. That evening we played games as a family.

The next day was a big, great day. The Skinners were with us. For the first part. I absolutely love doing the field trips on my own. It is easier to control the timing and tempo, to weave the themes together, to make the day have some unity, and to control the environment when doing it on your own. It really is best to do some on your own. But Andy Skinner brings so much to the table that it is also very good to have him along often. It has been quite a while since he was with us, so it was long overdue, and it was great!

We went to Hazor. This is such an amazing site. It was the largest Canaanite city of them all. And it is the one that the Bible records Joshua burned. They found an ash layer there that was over a meter thick. Clearly the Bible wasn’t kidding, Josh burned that place. Andy did a great job teaching them about that, and about the conquest in general. It was a pleasure, as I knew it would be.

Inside the Canaanite Palace of Hazor (Hatsor)

I took them out to see the Israelite remains. We sang a song about Solomonic gates in the big, six chambered gate. 
Both classes inside Hazor's Solomonic Gate
We went and saw a house, and spoke about what it was like to be a family and live there. Then we saw a matsebah, a standing stone that became an object of worship. Then we went to the watchtower. We read the verse about how this place was conquered by Tiglath Pilesar III, who started the scattering of Israel in 732 BC. We talked about the family that lived in the house we visited, and how they were scattered at this time. We talked about how it was the idolatry represented in the standing stone that resulted in their being scattered. No number of watchmen, and no width of the walls and gates, was going to hold out the Assyrians once Israel had become Idolatrous. We talked about identifying the idolatry in our lives so that we can avoid being spiritually scattered. I feel like it went well. It seemed to resonate with everyone.

The matsebah at Hatsor
The watchtower of Hazor
I do love that my kids are learning and getting this. I am sure that sometimes they get tired of it, but it is such a great blessing that they get to know these places. Of course, sometimes funny things come of it. One group of students was talking to Jacob and he told them he hasn’t really had a childhood, he had lectures instead. It is kind of true. Almost a quarter of his life has been spent in Israel going on field trips with me. Of his life that he can remember, it is probably about 1/3 of it that he has been doing this. At another site he told the students he was with “warning, warning, hot and boring.” He knew his stuff.

Jacob asleep on his mom on the bus

Sabrina driving our bus
Alexia asleep on the bus
From Hatsor we went to Tel Dan. This is a terrifically beautiful place. It is one of the headwaters of the Jordan, and as such water is everywhere, so things grow everywhere. It is a beautiful walk, just perfectly fantastic. We stopped at one place where the water springs out of a rock, and compared living water with broken cisterns. It helps you realize how much you need Christ.

The waters of Jordan at Tel Dan

Water springing from the rocks to flow into the Jordan at Tel Dan
Then we came to the high place of Dan. This is one of the places that Jeroboam built and placed a golden calf and an altar. Of course my students have studied this and read references to it so often, it was fun to see the look on their faces when I told them where they were standing. It was a “no way, we are really here, this is really it?” kind of moment. They were caught up in it. We talked about how this was the very first city the Assyrians would have hit, it was the first place from which Israel would be scattered. And the reason for the scattering also began in this place, because of the idolatry. The students talked to each other about how idolatry can start to creep into our lives. I asked them while they were there on spiritual and literal ground zero for the scattering of Israel, to ask themselves how they were in danger of becoming like that, and to commit to change. I gave them time to think about it, and I think it was a good moment.

My students at the high place at Tel Dan
We also looked out over the area that had been so contested between Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Then we walked around to the gates of the city from the days of Abraham. We read about how Abraham came and fought here as he attempted to rescue his nephew, Lot. While we cannot be sure, I think it is a very good chance that Abraham fought his way through that gate. It is almost certain he came past them. It is another one of those places where the scripture story becomes very, very real. We have had a lot of those lately, and that is what I live for with these students and my family. There is power in that.

The Abrahamic gate at Tel Dan (Laish in Abraham's day)
Finally we went to the gates. This is the one place where we find a dais on which a ruler sat and governed and made decisions at the gate. We talked about the role of gates, about how it was a place that was neither in or out of the city. It was a place where those who didn’t belong could meet with those who did, and decisions could be made as to whether they belonged. We acted out a leper coming to meet the priest to determine whether he was healed and cleansed or not. We acted out Boaz redeeming Ruth in the gate. We talked about other scriptural stories having to do with gates, and included the idea that people were taxed there, so storehouses were usually right inside the gate as well. This is so that goods collected as tariffs could be stored there, but also so that when the needy came to the ruler they could be given goods to help them. Then we read from 2 Nephi 9, where it says that Christ is the judge at the gate, and that he employs no servant there. He is the one who will determine whether you are clean or not, which determines whether or not you can enter and be part of the community inside. We talked about how Christ has enough in his storehouse to make up for whatever deficit we have, and that he wants to invite us into the City of God. The question is whether we are willing to come to him and ask for his help, ask for him to cleanse us. Even for me I was able to picture it better than I ever have before. It was a moving and powerful moment for me, where things just really came together. I hope it was for them as well.

The gate at Tel Dan

From there we went to see a beautiful waterfall. 

My class at the Banias Falls
Then we went to Banias, which is scriptural Caesarea Phillipi. We talked about Peter declaring that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the Living God. We sang “I Believe in Christ,” and talked about the importance of that meeting. Then we went up to the cliffside and put our hand against the rock. I taught them about the Church  being built on the rock of Apostolic testimony, and upon our ability to gain our own revelations about that testimony. We read an apostolic testimony together, and I reminded them that recently they had received just such a thing from Elder Christofferson. Then I told them that they needed to commit to be as solid as that rock in going forth and imparting of that testimony to others, especially in their families, but really everywhere. It was a nice time together.

Caesarea Phillipi (Banias) the temple of Pan

My kids thinking at Caesarea Phillipi (Banias)
From there we went to Nimrod’s Castle. The other class got up on the walls while I gathered my class together and gave them the speech that Aragorn delivers at the Black Gate in the movies. After they got whipped up we all stormed the castle together, resulting in a decent sized water fight. I think it was fun. Jacob, Julianne and I did some exploring of the castle. Jacob loves that place. We even found some bats there. It was a lot of fun.

Sabrina at Nimrod's Castle
bats at Nimrod's Castle
Jacob and the cistern at Nimrod's castle
From there we drove to Har Bental, a place where you can look down on to Syria, and almost see Damascus. Phil did a fantastic job of teaching both about the modern history and about Paul’s journey to Damascus, and relating that to our own lives. I think the day went as perfectly as one could ever ask for. I had a great time!

When we got home we started to pack a bit, and to clean off and deflate our water toys. It is hard to believe that our time here is already winding down.
On Wednesday we got to have the Skinners with us on the bus the whole day. It was a ton of fun. We went first to Akko. There I taught them about the Third Crusade, and arranged them around a fountain in a way where they could act out just a bit the sieges of the city. I hope it helped them understand how it worked. Then we went into the hall and I showed them the church, the refectory, etc., trying to explain to them about the military orders and how the Hospitalers in particular cared for the poor and helped the pilgrims and took care of the sick and buried them when necessary. Eventually I had some duels with them. Then I gave them some free time. On the whole it went well, I think they learned a bit and enjoyed it. My kids seem to have had a lot of fun, and I think they learned a lot as well. It was a great time.

The sea wall at Akko
Our family at Akko
From there we went to Sepphoris. This is a great site that hardly anyone gets to. It is huge. It was the capital when Jesus was young, and I would be surprised if he and Joseph didn’t work there as stone masons as the place was being built up. I took them around some of the wealthy mosaic floors and then we had a pretty good conversation about the difficulty the Jews found themselves in there as they had to decide how much of the culture of the world around them they would adopt and how much they wouldn’t. Then I asked them to examine their own lives, and to ask themselves what elements of modern culture they have adopted that they really shouldn’t, that takes away from their being a holy, covenant people. It looked to me like they were truly thinking, introspecting, and trying to figure what changes they should make. This is great!

Then Andy took them to more of the city. He showed them the house that has an amazingly beautiful mosaic portrait, which is also where a triclinium was depicted. This is probably the kind of set up employed when Christ had dinner. He did a great job of teaching about all of that.

Then we went to a part of the city that was very Jewish, and he talked about how this was the place where the Mishnah was created. Again, he did a terrific job. We also went to the theater, where he did some nice teaching.
Roman game on the sidewalks of Sepphoris
In the meantime, some intrigue had developed. Due to non-malicious but poorly thought out joke, one of our students had gotten a handful of prickly-pear. It was painful. They were working so hard on getting them out. While Julianne was helping with this she realized that Sabrina wasn’t with us. It turns out that due to some tension between her sister and herself she had gone to a corner and then not seen when we left. Fortunately she staid where she was, and Julianne was able to find  her.
A stone manger at Sepphoris
I took everyone to the synagogue, and taught them about the fantastic floor and its motif that so evokes the temple, but also strongly evokes the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham. We had a nice time, and then we took off.

A triclinium at Sepphoris

A mosaic portrait at Sepphoris

We needed to be to our next site by 4:00. We got there at 4:03. They still let us in, and I promised we would be out by 5 pm. Andy did a fantastic job teaching in the synagogue there, which is the only one in which we have found an actual “Moses’ Seat.” We also showed them beams from that area, and it was fun for everyone to begin to picture beams and motes. We had a nice time, and then got out by 4:55. It was a super successful day. 

beams at Chorazim
motes and beams in eyes at Chorazim
We got home with enough time for everyone to do just a tiny bit of swimming before dinner. Then we spent the evening packing up.

The next morning we went to Mount Carmel, where I taught about Elijah and the contest with the priests of Ba’al. I think everyone really took some messages from that and internalized it. Then we went to Haifa and looked down on the beautiful Bahai gardens. Then we went to the German Colony Templar cemetery, where we had some nice lessons about missionaries and church members there. Kaleb also did some work on what we hope will be his Eagle project, though we have to move along on that.

The grove at Carmel
Mount Carmel
From there we went to Caesarea. It was a joy to teach about Peter and Herod Agrippa and Pilate and Paul there. I particularly love teaching about Paul’s defense of himself before Festus and Agrippa, and about Peter coming to visit Cornelius there and extending the blessings of the Gospel to all the world. What amazing places. We also went out to the aqueducts and let everyone enjoy just a little time on the beach.

The palace at Caesarea

Kaleb at the aqueduct at Caesarea 
my class at Caesarea
On the way home we had a little fun, and then I talked about the Book of Abraham for a while. On the whole I think it went well. Finally we got back to the JC. It was nice to be home. We unpacked like crazy, and did laundry too. Julianne works so hard!

I can’t imagine a better Galilee trip. This may be the best one I have ever been a part of. It was insanely hot and humid, yet it didn’t cause us problems and really didn’t take away from the field trips. This was a Galilee trip where we experienced the greatest amount of freedom I ever have. We were just allowed to do our jobs, and as a result, we did them exceptionally well. The less interference, the better things go. We all agreed that it was a spectacular time.

On Friday I taught my class for two hours. We got caught up, and we had some wonderful times. Then I came home and we all did a lot of work starting to pack up. We are now at less than a week before my family flies to Utah. That is hard to believe. It took up most of the day to work on that, and we still have a long way to go.
That evening we had dinner with everyone, and then we watched some movies together as a family. It was a very pleasant evening.

The next day was District Conference. David Whitchurch was released, and Doug Coombs was put in as the new District President. I felt to sing Halelujah! He is perfect, he will be a blessing to the District. There will be great rejoicing under his stewardship, and things will move forward in a marvelous way! I am so happy for the district.

As things started, we remembered that during the afternoon session they were going to hold primary, and Jacob had a talk and Sabrina had a scripture. During one of the musical numbers Sabrina chose out her scripture. Then she wrote this to/for Jacob: “Hi, I’m Jacob and today I’m giving a talk about Christ. (Jacob, bare your testimony). I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Notes: Don’t make it too short. Say things that you question about him and then let the spirit just take you away. Don’t be afraid, just stay calm and just trust the spirit. Good luck. Remember lots of little kids keep it fun. Put some jokes in but jokes that are appropriate Like you will figure it out and let the spirit whisper and guide you. I believe in you!” Jacob figured out his own talk anyway, but I think this was the most amazing and cute note a 10 year old sister could give her 9 year old brother.

The talks were good, and I think we were all uplifted. We had a wonderful lunch, and then more talks. At the end Elder Price taught about what kind of a teacher Christ was. To begin with I was feeling nervous, I always wonder how I will feel I have been doing as a teacher, have I been measuring up? By the end, as he summarized all the points we have made, I thought, “that is exactly what I have done this semester.” I asked “Is it I” and came out feeling okay. That is a rewarding feeling. I always have room to improve, but I felt pretty good about things.

Then we had wonderful time together as a family. We played some games, talked, watched a video about Jesus, had popcorn and ice cream and played some more games. I am so blessed to have such a great family! I can’t believe all the amazing experiences we have had together. I can’t believe our time together here is already coming to an end. How blessed we are.

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