Sunday, January 24, 2016

1/24/16 Bulldogs, Snow and Icicles, Basketball, Epiphany

We were just a little too far and the bus started moving, but it was very plain to us and pretty exciting. If you look carefully, you can see the VVHS Bulldog sticker (white) at the bottom of the window.

I went with the sister missionaries for a lesson with a lady who was baptized later in the week.   They have short, very narrow side streets that go from the sidewalks and take you back to areas that have small homes.  Some doors open right off the street as you see on the left below.
 The little turn in to the new member's home comes right before the pole you can see at the right.
this is the other side as we were walking out.
They usually offer you tea - chai - and the missionaries always carry herbal and fruit tea just in case all they have is the other, but these were aware of the Word of Wisdom so had this good fruit tea.  It is funny sometimes when the missionaries say how much they like the tea - as they stir in spoonful after spoonful of sugar.  Also, when you visit, they often have a little snack fixed.  I confess I'm not too adventurous in that department.  Mike actually does better than I do.
When we see all the icicles I always think of my mother - one of her favorite things.  These weren't  really long as some are, but they were huge around, much more than they look here.
 These are always pretty - just nice rows of icicle teeth.
We went over to watch some of our singles and other members play ball .. and at a break when they were changing the court from basketball to football (soccer) one of the bishops who was there bounced the ball over to Mike - 
 nothing but net !!! 
 and again (missed a few too)
       We respect their traditions and are grateful for the times we can be observers.  Last week we walked down to the Volga for their celebration of the Epiphany.  To the Orthodox Church January 19 marks the baptism of Jesus.  The larger crowd was at midnight, but they were still coming and going when we were there.  Below is a brief explanation which is better (and shorter) than mine would have been. 
         The Epiphany, celebrated in Russia on January 19, marks the baptism of Jesus in the Orthodox Church. As elsewhere in the Orthodox world, the Russian Church conducts the rite of the Great Blessing of the Waters, also known as "the Great Sanctification of the Water" on that day (or the eve before).  The priest-led procession could simply proceed to the font,  but traditionally the worshipers would go to a nearby lake or river.
          Believing that on this day water becomes holy and is imbued with special powers, Russians cut holes in the ice of lakes and rivers, often in the shape of the cross, to bathe in the freezing water. This practice is said to be popularized comparatively recently; it was fairly uncommon in the czarist days, but has flourished since the 1990s.
          Participants in the ritual may dip themselves three times under the water, honoring the Holy Trinity, to symbolically wash away their sins from the past year, and to experience a sense of spiritual rebirth. Orthodox priests are on hand to bless the water, and rescuers are on hand to monitor the safety of the swimmers in the ice-cold water. Others limit their participation in the Epiphany rites to those conducted inside churches, where priests perform the Great Blessing of Waters, both on Epiphany Eve and Epiphany (Theophany) proper. The water is then distributed to attendees who may store it to use in times of illness, to bless themselves, family members, and their homes, or to drink. Some Russians think any water – even from the taps on the kitchen sink – poured or bottled on Epiphany becomes holy water, since all the water in the world is blessed this day. In the more mild climate of the southern city of Sochi meanwhile, where air and water temperatures both hover in the low to mid 10 degree Celsius range (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in January, thousands of people jump into the Black Sea at midnight each year on Epiphany and begin to swim in celebration of the feast.

 This was the only one we saw actually swim.  
The bridge looks white - with that, the sky and the river you can see how cold it is.
 This hole was cut out of the ice - and just has ice and snow at the edges.
They say the water isn't that cold, but it is cold when you get out, and we can certain attest to that, even when you are not dripping wet.  "not that cold" looks pretty cold to us.
It is a happy time. Most have family or friends there who are wrapped up in full winter gear, waiting with towels and robes, proud of the one who has demonstrated their faithfulness. It is fun and tender to watch families and friends as they take such good care of and make a fuss over the one who has made the spiritual recommitment.

Getting ready to go in .. 
the steps have to be freezing cold and icy - this was a second hole and seemed to be lined on the sides and ends  (you can see the little icicles along the side below the blue)
 Doesn't take long to get in 
 or out ..
This young lady was the only who seemed to have to talk herself into it .. and there was none of the three-time dipping business ..once the young man was out,  she quickly went down the stairs and slowly into the water, went under only once, then almost bounced out and  didn't even try to hide the shivering. 
we might be willing to try it at Bunker's pond in the summer.

Here's a link if you want to see the celebration in other cities in Russia.  We liked ours best, seemed more of a family and friends time but these are good too.

 Always grateful to be able to be here.  
And to finish out this week's blog - a couple of thoughts:

From a talk by Elder Gene R. Cook Of the First Quorum of the Seventy From a BYU Devotional Address May 29, 1984.  The Power of Faith

      I suppose no one knows, but the reality of the power of faith cannot be denied. In the face of all opposition, trust in the Lord. Even if the opposition continues almost beyond endurance, continue to trust in the Lord.

          Life is a struggle. But the promises of the Lord are sure. Major problems and decisions face all of you. But they are all solvable if you will rely on the Lord.   The Lord really is the answer to it all. He’s the one who can unleash your potential and teach you who you are and what you ought to do.  In conclusion, may I make these few suggestions that will help you stay close to and trust in the Lord:
1.    Pray to Him, continually seeking revelation throughout the day. (See 2 Ne. 9:52.)
2.    Read His scriptures daily, even if only for a few minutes. They will give you direction in this world and teach you of the world to come.
3.    Exercise faith and keep the things of the Spirit as the first priority in your life, then all else will be appropriately added.
4.    Seek to do His will, not your own, humbling yourself and repenting or changing your life as needed.
5.    Love others; serve them. Feed the Lord’s flock.
6.    Keep the commandments with exactness.

And from President David O. McKay:
Lara Johnson's photo.
“Let me assure you, Brethren (and Sisters) that some day you will have a personal Priesthood interview with the Savior, Himself. If you are interested, I will tell you the order in which He will ask you to account for your earthly responsibilities.
First, He will request an accountability report about your relationship with your wife (husband). Have you actively been engaged in making her (him) happy and ensuring that her (his) needs have been met as an individual?
Second, He will want an accountability report about each of your children individually. He will not attempt to have this for simply a family stewardship but will request information about your relationship to each and every child.
Third, He will want to know what you personally have done with the talents you were given in the pre-existence.
Fourth, He will want a summary of your activity in your church assignments. He will not be necessarily interested in what assignments you have had, for in his eyes the home teacher (visiting teacher) and a mission president (Relief Society President) are probably equals, but He will request a summary of how you have been of service to your fellowmen in your Church assignments.
Fifth, He will have no interest in how you earned your living, but if you were honest in all your dealings.
Sixth, He will ask for an accountability on what you have done to contribute in a positive manner to your community, state, country, and the world.”
― David O. McKay

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