Sunday, August 28, 2016

He will find His lost sheep

I am giving a talk in church today. I thought I would share with you some of the things I am talking about. My thoughts are coming from President Uchtdorf's talk in general conference.

Here is a link to the talk. It is really good:
Click to read the talk 

If you remember, he talks about his experience as a child in Germany during the war. He talks about the destruction in the city of Dresden, where 90% of the city was destroyed. He said he had wondered how these effects of war could be overcome. There was a church in Dresden, Frauenkirche which was completely torn down by war to a pile of rubble. But, this church along with the city of Dresden was rebuilt. 

Pesident Uchtdorf says: "If man can take the ruins, rubble, and remains of a broken city and rebuild an awe-inspiring structure that rises towards the heavens, how much more capable is our Almighty Father to restore His children who have fallen, struggled, or become lost?"

The parable of the good shepherd in the scripture is the most hopeful parable because it tells us that our Savior, the good shepherd, loves His sheep. They are precious in His sight. He will seek after them, He will find them and He will place them on His shoulders rejoicing.
 


I have many friends who have lost their faith. They are offended by someone, or have lost their testimony for some reason. I have also many family members who struggle and don't fully believe in God. I know we are sad when things like this happen, but we have to remember that once we have done all we can to help them, we need to simply trust the Good Shepherd. Our Savior knows His sheep, he knows where they are and He will find them in His due time.

If you are lost yourself, if you have lost your faith...I invite you to act on the little amount of belief that you have and turn to Heavenly Father. 
I personally got to that point once in my life...When I lost my faith and testimony...But, I gathered up every bit of faith I had left, and knelt down in prayer and asked: "Heavenly Father, are you really there?" He answered me that night, and He will answer you. All you have to do is turn to the Savior of the world, the Good Shepherd. Once you do, He will lift you up and carry you. 

As I look at the destruction around the world today...where many cities have been destroyed by war or natural disasters. Cities in Italy, Gaza in Palestine, cities in Syria and Iraq and other places. Can these places ever be rebuilt? The world around us seems hopeless...

Yet I rejoice as I have seen the Lord reach out His hand and build faith and perform miracles in spite of the destruction and pain. He reached out to me in Palestine, a country torn by conflict, and He restored my shattered, hopeless life. 
All His sheep are precious in His sight and He loves them all. He is the mighty creator and can create life from ashes. He does best when He has broken hearts and broken lives to work with. 

He simply asks us to turn our lives over to Him and He will make something wonderful out of us. As president Uchtdorf says,
"His plan is to build us into something far greater than what we were--far greater than what we can ever imagine. With each step of faith on the path of discipleship, we grow into the beings of eternal glory and infinite joy we were designed to become."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Life

The last few days in Las Vegas went well. We ate more buffet food which was amazing. Maher finally learned how to peal these little creatures...


 While my brother was in the casino I spent my time swimming or in the hotel room. He stayed up all night the last night trying to win the money he lost back. 

  
Staying in the Circus Circus hotel was nice. They had circus shows every 45 minutes and had roller coaster rides and other games. So, I did find things to do in order to avoid the cigarette smelling casinos.



 

I was scheduled to give a talk in Utah on the 17th. It was hard to drag my brother out of the casino so I can leave in time. I drove for 7 hours non-stop stressing that if I run into rush-hour traffic, I won't make it. Thankfully I made it in time...I spent the night with Karen and her family. They were so sweet and it was nice to meet her and her family... 


On the 18th I was invited to a reunion for all the couples that served in the Middle East. I really did not belong to the group, but it was nice to see some old friends there and enjoy the company of those amazing people. We had a Middle Eastern dinner as well, so it was wonderful. This is the park where we had the reunion...really beautiful...
 

My mom had surgery last week. We were worried that at her age it would be hard on her, but she is doing well. I am grateful for my many blessings...

On the way to Utah from Las Vegas, I came so close to having an accident. I don't think I have ever been so scared. A car (maybe 4 cars ahead of me) suddenly stopped. We were going 80 miles an hour and even though I often keep a safe following distance, there was no way I could avoid hitting the car in front of me. All of us, me and the cars in front of me chose to move over a lane. There was no time to think because we either hit each other or move. The car behind me, however, moved over to the next lane 2 seconds before I did, so when I moved, he was right next to me. Luckily he was a good driver and avoided the accident somehow. He was even nice enough to follow me and wave to me to tell me that there was no hard feelings and that he was ok. I probably scared him to death too...

I thanked Heavenly Father for this miracle because I really have no idea how this accident was avoided. 

Sadly we sometimes don't know how fast we could lose our lives. Just the day before that day I got so upset and yelled at my brothers because they left me waiting for them in the hotel lobby and went to see a show without telling me. I then felt so bad for yelling at them and getting so upset. So, that day would not have been a good day to die and stand before my Savior. I certainly would not have been worthy to stand in front of Him. 

My aunt suddenly died a few weeks ago, and a friend of our family just had a stroke and died.  He was a plummer and had just fixed my cousin's faucet for free a few days ago. Now, he's gone...And just an hour ago, another friend in his 30's had a stroke and died leaving his wife and 2 children.

We never know when we will be called to meet our maker. This life is too short and we need to make the most of it. I see family members saving money and not spending a penny, living their lives wanting and wishing...and I see other family members spending so much money so that they have the shadow of debt over them every day of their lives. And I saw many spend their lives in the casinos wasting every penny that they make on slot machines. I hope we can be wise...I hope we can spend money on that which is good...and spend our short life doing good things...Spending time with those that we love and serving others. That is where the true joy lies.

It is good to be be back home in Rexburg.  I have been living out of a suitcase for a while and it is not fun. It is nice to have clean clothes and do what I want to do. But, if it feels good to be home after a long trip, think of how good it would feel to go back home to Heavenly Father after this long trip of mortality/life. Our souls and our bodies would rest and we would be in peace.  When that day comes, I hope we each can strive to be ready so that it is a day of joy and peace and not a day of guilt and remorse.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Family and Las Vegas

I left Rexburg last week and went to Las Vegas. I met my two brothers there. We are spending a few days here together.
The drive was not that bad because I spent one day in Utah and also made a stop in St. George on the way so I didn't drive straight down.

In Utah I had a good time spending some time with some dear friends. I found out many of them will be in Jerusalem while I am here...lucky them!



I got to Las Vegas and thought 100 degrees was hot, but it got to 105 and today it was 110 degrees. People here are so used to the heat that when it is 96 degrees they say the weather is nice and no need for air conditioning! ugh...

  The greatest thing (Umm actually the only good thing) about Las Vegas is the good food. We went to some buffets and they were amazing. They have a booth for each country and you can have any kind of food you like. The only bad thing is that you can't try everything you want to try. But, I did try these little sea creatures and they were so good. I had to ask this random guy about how to eat them. I had no clue!









In Vegas we stayed at multiple hotels since my brother Walid gets free nights and we had to keep switching hotels...Here is the view from one hotel and from the other:


The hotels we stayed at were great, or so we thought...until we went with my brother Walid to see their room at the Trump hotel. Wow! The room had a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a living room...


And a hot-tub with a wonderful view...



And we discovered that there was a TV in the bathroom on the mirror (like inside the mirror).
 

Here are some other pictures from Vegas:
With some friends from Beit Sahour who live in Vegas. They were so nice to us and fed us and took care of us.







I saw my friend Elizabeth from my BYU days...It is so strange to meet her kids. They are so sweet and amazing...strange to see that she has kids, hearing about it is different than actually seeing it.
 

My brothers are downstairs gambling...I think I am the only one who would be ahead this trip (not losing a penny). They both lost a lot of money. They don't listen to me and keep gambling. We could have used all that money to see some shows and have some fun, oh well. 


 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Chicago

I am going to post some pictures here and details about my trip to Chicago to attend the ASA conference. It was such a fun trip.
The first time I went to Chicago it was the middle of winter and it was freezing cold, there is a reason they call it wind city because that cold wind hitting my face was the worst I have seen.

This trip however, the weather was perfect. It got a little hot right before we left, but for the most part it was perfect. 

It was a great experience to go to the ASA conference, never seen this many statisticians in one place! I must say however, statistics never excited me. Funny because I have a PhD in it.  But, my PhD was in mathematical statistics.  So, the mathematical part of statistics is great, yes. But, not too fond of the applied. I went to the sessions that involved mathematical statistics or teaching and it was useful. 

We did a lot of fun things while there. We took the architecture boat tour down the river where they told you about some of the buildings in downtown Chicago. It was strange for me coming from Rexburg where I felt safe walking down the street and then coming to Chicago down town were there were so many people that were homeless and drunk and doing drugs on the street. I am glad I had 3 guys from work with me as we walked in the streets. I would not dare go anywhere alone. 

Here are some pictures from the boat tour:






Here is the view from the hotel, amazing!





The guys talked me into eating pizza one day, but for the most part I avoided eating food that could be found in Rexburg. They said the Chicago deep dish pizza is different. They were right, it was. But, still nothing too exciting about pizza. 



We went to china town and had amazing Chinese food!!
 

And to go exotic, we went to a Cuban restaurant. It was really good as well...

We also went to a Japanese restaurant...the best Japanese food I have ever had! And we also went to an Armenian (Middle Eastern) restaurant. That was also really good, their Knafa was great.

On the last day we went up to Sears/Willis tower, the highest building in the US. It was great to see those amazing views. 
 




With my colleagues from work at sears tower:



They have a glass ledge that you can step on and look down from 100+ stories high, even I hesitated to step on it. It was strange. 


 We also went to the art museum. I am not a fan of art...but they had some interesting things. Like the tooth of John the Baptist...



And they had these miniature rooms, I put my hand there so you can see how small they are. They look so real though. All the chairs, book cases and everything looks like a real room, just small.
 


I got back home on Thursday and have been busy trying to finish up the projects in my house before I leave on Monday to go down to Las Vegas. I had someone come and paint the kitchen cabinets and then had someone put handles on all of them. It is such a big transformation to my kitchen and bathrooms. They look so much better! I even had two left over handles that I put on myself. I was so proud of myself as they didn't end up being crooked or in the wrong position.
Here is my new kitchen: