The Dead Sea is our destination today. A good healthy breakfast is what’s required for a visit to Masada. (My heel is killing me. I’m hoping I’m not a slow-down for the group.)
The breakfast here is different for Americans. They eat salad for breakfast, however, salad to them is chopped cucumbers and tomatoes. They also have chocolate/hazelnut spread on bread, boiled eggs and apples or oranges.
Yes, that is a foosball table in the background.
The hostel in Jerusalem is pretty low budget. You rinse your dishes and put them in the dishwasher racks. Matt volunteered to do the dishes today. (Matt’s a great guy.)
The view from the hostel isn’t the most picturesque, but it tells a story. Below we load in to Jumpy for a trip down to the lowest place on earth – – the Dead Sea.
As you drive from Jerusalem you drop down to a valley. It is dry, desert land. Part way down the mountain is a sea level marker. It’s a good place to stop for a picture or two.
Each time I visit here I see Sushi the Camel and his owner. This is the guy’s full time business, and this is his location.
When we reached the bottom of the valley, guess what?
We saw an entire herd of camels!
I remember incorrectly. I thought the baptismal site was quite a ways from the main highway from Jerusalem going east. We drove to it first.
There are many improvements since I was here two years ago. The road is paved all the way. Before it was dirt. While there are signs warning about mines, there are fewer.
The water’s edge has been set up to accommodate tourist as well as people wanting to be baptized. I found it interesting so many people were baptizing themselves. They put on a white shift, entered the water, and dipped down.
Another turns 8. Today one of our granddaughters turned 8. Eight is a big deal in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We call it the age of accountability. We believe baptism isn’t necessary unless you are old enough to discern right from wrong. Eight is the age of accountability in our church.
She’s excited about being baptized.
We had a little snow during the night. I took the blower out again and cleaned off the driveway and sidewalks. Now that I’m done, my back aches and so does my foot.
I’m sure there are snowblowers with steering, but you have to wrestle this thing to steer it. It probably weighs a couple hundred pounds and it is very difficult to turn. My ManPlow doesn’t have this problem.
I finished up with the ManPlow. It seemed it would be easier to push the small amount missed by the blower than to attempt to steer the snowblower.
Now I realize I need to pick up another gas can to keep with the snowblower.
While I fully expected few guests at the temple (because of the weather), I am pleasantly surprised we had a few people brave the weather.
Well, today, Brianna gets baptized! Yes, she will become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For the baptismal service, I played the piano and gave the talk on Baptism. Chris Cook (Brianna’s birth-father) baptized her, and Jason confirmed her. Jason’s sister, Jerilyn, gave the talk on the Holy Ghost.
From there, it was back to Amber’s house for a luncheon.
After all was said and done, we decided to go to Leatherby’s for ice cream. Yup. Nothing beats Leatherby’s for ice cream. However, I did notice they have changed their ice cream recipe. First, the Swiss Milk Chocolate is like any other chocolate chip ice cream (huge disappointment), and second, they have reduced the amount of cream in their ice cream and are adding more milk (also a disappointment.) They need to go BACK to their original recipes.
I heard the most ridiculous thing on the radio. A Christian radio program had some guy who claimed when Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ he meant we no longer need to abide by laws or ordinances. He went so far as to specifically single out the commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy.
That left me thinking wow! So, this guy believes the 10 Commandments are no longer necessary. While he didn’t go through each of the 10, he specifically said there is no need to honor Sabbath day observance. It only stands to reason he implicated the other 9 in his statement that we “no longer need to abide by laws”.
While I know there are those who believe that once you confess Jesus all of your sins will be forgiven. While I believe that Jesus atoned for our sins, I also believe one can’t confess in hypocrisy. For example, Jesus specifically said if we do not forgive others we will NOT be forgiven. That’s just one example of the conditions of forgiveness.
The guy on the radio kept repeating the phrase, “It is finished.” It was as if to make a point that we are to simply give up and do as we please as long as we accept Jesus. And, if it was finished, why did the apostles continue on teaching and BAPTIZING. Yes, that was another one, while not specifically mentioned by the guy on the radio, that we don’t need to do. He specifically said there is no need to perform ordinances. He didn’t specify which ones, but he did say ordinances are not necessary.
Huh? Again, what were Peter, James and John doing after Christ’s resurrection? (See Acts 2:38)
So, contrary to what the guy on the radio said, I was off to the temple tonight. It was a nice evening. We were busy and got a lot of work done.
You see, as far as I’ve read, baptism is necessary, and what type of God would keep someone out of heaven because they haven’t been baptized? Instead, he instituted a plan where those who died without baptism can have that ordinance performed by a proxy as there are no baptisms performed after this life. This is no guarantee the spirits of those deceased will accept the baptism. They still have their agency, but at least the ordinance has been performed and it is now up to them to confess Christ and accept the baptism.
Today is a big day for our grandson. He turned 8 recently and has chosen to be baptized.
Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worthy males receive the priesthood. With the priesthood comes the authority to baptize and perform other ordinances. It was pleasing to our grandson baptized by his father. After the baptism, his dad also confirmed him a member of the church.
It was unfortunate that Elizabethe wasn’t able to attend the baptism. She got very sick last night. We’re not sure if it was food poisoning or the flu. (She didn’t eat the same thing as the rest of us when we went to the BBQ place. However, she got sick quite a while after dinner so I’m thinking flu.)
After the baptism everyone gathered at Spencer and Jennifer’s for a BBQ picnic. It was a fun time and it was nice visiting with Spencer’s parents and a couple of his siblings.
Elizabethe continues to be pretty sick. She didn’t even leave the bedroom all day. This flu has hit her very hard.
This area of Texas is very green. Jennifer and Spencer have open space behind their house. We hiked back there a ways and it is a lot like the woods around here. The trees are large and tall. Most of them are pines and oaks. They live in a nice quiet neighborhood near the lake, and the trees make it a nice, quiet place.
We drove to the top of a cliff overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The cliffs reminded me of Yosemite.
In the caves of these rocks, Jews took refuge from the crusaders. Using long poles with hooks, women and children were pulled from the caves to fall to their death.
The view here at Arbel National Park is amazing. It is good place to get yourself oriented to the Sea of Galilee area.
Today is a good day to see how rough this little lake can get. I can see why, in a little boat, Peter would get worried about the storm. I can imagine it can get a lot worse than today.
Our next stop was the ancient city of Bet She’an. It was here that Saul and Jonathan were killed. Saul was beheaded and his body hung upside down on a wall above the city.
I could have spent all day at this impressive dig. There was a lot to see and we only gave ourselves 30 minutes. (Really? 30 minutes? This is a good day visit.)
As we drove south, you could see the high-tech fence to protect Israel from Jordan. Our destination was the traditional baptismal site of Jesus on the Jordan river, but as you can see, it is a well watched area.
We passed through mine fields on the way, and then to a check point with a big sign reading “NO PHOTOS”. We told the guard we were on our way to see the baptismal site, and annoyed looking, he waved us through.
Was this the spot where Jesus was baptized? Probably not. Rivers meander (change course) over time. It may have been close, but the fact of the matter is, he was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, by immersion, to fulfill all righteousness. (Matthew 3:15)
Remember when we used to sing the song in school, “Jordan River is muddy and cold?” Well, it is muddy and I put my hand in there and it is cold. It is amazing that crystal clear water up near Caesarea Philippi could become so muddy in a few miles. I think there is an object lesson there too.
Diane asked if I’d talk her photo so that people could see the soldiers on the Jordanian side. There were soldiers on both sides. Seems silly that a sacred place like this would require M16s and soldiers, AND that we’d pass through mine fields to get to it.
What’s even more silly is the gift shop selling bikinis. You heard me. In a country where women cover their bodies completely, they sell bikinis at the baptismal site of Jesus.
I think I’ve seen it all now.
Continuing on our journey…
Diane asked if we’d stop so she could ride a camel and if I’d photograph it for her grandchildren. Wait. It’s Monday. It’s not Hump Day. Oh, but we did it anyway.
Camels are strange animals. I have no desire to ride one. (But, I do like the GEICO commercial.)
We returned to Jerusalem and to the Abraham Hostel. I went with Elizabeth and Kelly to find a place to eat. Again… shawarma is about all you can find. But, this place did serve fresh mint steeped in hot water. It was quite good.
The shawarma was good too, but I’m getting a little tired of them. They are the fast-food of Israel.
The ladies found a scarf shop and the sales guy, Ahymen (he pronounced it Amen), was quite a character. He was minding the shop for his dad, but usually teaches high school chemistry. he insisted on demonstrating on the ladies the different ways they can wear a scarf.
He also showed us in the back of the store a very deep well that’s a couple thousand years old. I bought a keffeyah for Elizabethe. Now we’ll both have them.
I asked Ahymen about the colors of the Keffeyahs. He said my black and tan was “fasionable”, as was the one I bought for Elizabethe. The white with red are Jordanian. The white with black are Palestinian. Plain white Egyptian, and so forth.
While riding the trolley back to our hostel, I saw this guy outside. He was happy and singing. He waved to me when he saw that I took his photo.
Speaking of singing, it is not uncommon to hear people walking down the street singing. It is also quite common to see people holding hands, especially families.
Last night, I received two phone calls. The first was from a man I met in 1977 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The other from a friend I made while working at AT&T.
In 1977, I was a Mormon Missionary serving in the Colorado Denver Mission, and stationed in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My companion and I had an old Temple Square visitor’s slip. Every time we went by the house, nobody was home. Every time we were on that street, we would stop and knock, and nobody would answer.
A member of our church lived next door. We were at his house having ice cream (he kept a freezer stocked with ice cream just for the missionaries), and as we were leaving, we saw a lady pulling in to the driveway of the house.
We immediately ran over and introduced ourselves and asked if we could share a message. The lady politely explained she was in a hurry, but she’d love to talk to us.
After that initial contact, we went back several times only to be told, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go to…”. She had kids that were involved in after school activities, and a husband who worked for the railroad, and so it was going to be difficult.
Finally, one night we saw her car in the driveway, and we stopped and a man answered the door. We told him who we were and I was fully expecting to be told, “Buzz off”, but he invited us in. We taught them, invited them to be baptized, and they accepted.
This was the start of a friendship that will last for the eternities. I remember the feeling I had when I was asked to give their 7 year-old daughter a blessing because she was feeling left out because everyone else got to be baptized. That single event prepared me so much for fatherhood responsibilities.
Over the years, I have connected with their family several times. Last night, Brother Gerle called to say they would be in Palmyra at the end of May. We invited them to come stay with us. It will be really nice to see them.
Here’s a related video… (click here). When I watch this video of my friend Al Fox, I am reminded of people like the Gerle’s. There is a connection between a missionary and the people he/she teaches. And, there is a connection between the convert and their missionaries. It is a relationship that cannot be explained in words. It is humbling. It is joyous. It is one of gratitude.
The 2nd call I got was from a lady I worked with at AT&T. We shared a passion for mountain bike riding and fish tacos. She called to say they want to come out and spend a week with us.
Elizabethe and I bought fabric for one of my projects. (see http://projects.dbwalton.com ) Since we were near Trader Joe’s, I had to stop and buy some goodies – S.F. Sourdough Bread.
We then had dinner at South of the Border in Newark, NY. Perhaps I’m spoiled having actually dined in several regions of Mexico, or perhaps I haven’t tried the right item from their menu yet, but it just doesn’t feel taste like Mexican food. This is not to say their food is not good. Their food is fresh, but the seasonings do not remind me of Mexican food.
The new owner of South of the Border also owns the Pontillo’s further east on 31 in Newark. We met him briefly. They were quite busy so he didn’t have time to hear about Get It Done on 31 ™.
The senior portrait season at the studio is winding down. There are a couple more orders pending, and one less after today. It was a great season, and next year will only get better.
After closing up the studio, I headed to the church building for a baptism. The sister missionaries asked me to play the piano. I’m glad they did. It reminded me of Etta Tusing’s baptism back in 1978. Etta was in her late 80s and decided to join the church. It was a wonderful experience back then, and today’s baptism reminded me so much of that experience.
Today was quite the day. It started with a special Sacrament Meeting for the Lyons, Canandaigua, Fayette and Palmyra Wards. It was my turn to play organ. (It will be my turn from now on. Sister Morse was released last week.) We had big congregation – about 900+ people they estimated.
After Sacrament Meeting, we had Enrico’s baptism. Elizabethe said she counted about 40 people in attendance. It was a full room and included our new bishop, Bishop Taylor, and 3 former Palmyra Ward bishops.
I spoke on baptism, Brother Russell on the Holy Ghost, and Bishop Taylor welcomed Enrico to the church and to our ward. Sisters Egan, Smoot, Holm and Wilkinson sang a song. I performed ordinance of baptism. (I had to baptism him twice because I didn’t notice his toe popped up.)
After the baptismal service, we had everyone over at the house for lunch. We had a good turn out, and we had enough food. It was a good time.
Just a little about the journey…
I met Enrico back in the 1980s when we both came to an interview for the computer columnist at California Delta Newspapers. There were 6 of us there. We all six got hired and that meant the pay and work was split six ways. After a couple of weeks, it came down to three of the six candidates – Enrico, Yael Li Ron, and me. After a while, Yael dropped out too. That meant it was just Enrico and me.
We ran into each other at the West Coast Computer Fair. Enrico told me of all the freebies he had been getting from vendors. He showed me his business card and explained the vendors were anxious to give sample products to the press. As we talked, we decided we would collaborate and coordinate our columns.
From there, we worked together to double-team the newspaper. I would write on one product, and Enrico on a competitor’s product. Or, we each take a side on an issue. We started calling ourselves the Siskel & Ebert of computer software.
In 1990, I took a job at Pacific Bell. Two weeks after I started, Enrico called and had asked if he knew of any job openings. I told him to come talk to my boss. He did. He got the job. And, since we now worked together, we started car pooling to work.
It was during that time car pooling that we talked a lot. I learned that many of Enrico’s friends through the years had been Latter-day Saints. One day, I asked Enrico to let me know when he gets baptized because I want to be there. That was back in 1990.
Well, 20 years after that conversation, I stood beside Enrico in the waters of baptism. All choked up, I did my best to say those words, “Enrico John Massagli, Junior, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you…”
I cannot write, or express in writing, the wonderful feeling of seeing a close friend join the church. 52 times on my mission I saw people I hardly knew make changes and join the church. I baptized 7 of my children. (And, with one’s own children, you know what they have been taught and you know their desires at that age.) This, however, was special in that it was something I’ve been praying about for 20 years. I’ve seen the changes in Enrico’s life. I’ve seen that transformation.
“Who can tell me the names of the prophets we have been singing about this year?”, Sister Collie asks the children.
“That’s right…. “, Sister Collie says when a little voice asks…
“What about Nephi?”
“We all love Nephi, but he isn’t in the song Follow the Prophet,” Sister Collie responds.
You could hear lots of chuckles. Another reason Primary is so fun.
Dinner today I made rotini with meatballs, carmelized onions and zucchini, with biscuits and Elizabethe made a salad. It was gooooooood. My carmalized onions and zucchini was a hit.
Sisters Wilkinson and Holm came and taught Enrico. Sister Rice came with the sisters. We discussed his baptismal service and what people will be needed to do what. I’m excited. It is only 2 weeks away.
I made some oatmeal, pecan and chocolate chip cookies.