Hello friends . . . grace and peace,
For anyone looking for something to outrank the Grand Canyon for spectacular natural beauty, let me introduce you to Petra. This natural wonder in Jordan can exhaust the use of superlatives, and can test the legs and stamina of anyone. It didn’t help that I brought a new physical limitation to my first visit to Petra. During the night, while walking from my bed to the bathroom, I hooked the small toe on my left foot to a chair leg. Dr. Brad Lauderdale, a member of our pilgrimage group, inspected it and said it might not be broken, but the swollen and discolored toe assured me that my time upright would be limited. But miss Petra because of a toe? Not in this life. So, with hiking boots on to help me emphasize my limp in an effort to gather more sympathy, I headed out of the hotel to the nearby entrance to this phenomenon.
We had the option of riding a donkey to the first stage that leads to the canyon, or ride in a horse-drawn carriage to go more than a mile to the spectacular treasury. But I walked to take advantage of the teaching of our guide, Sami.
The walk through the narrow canyon, called The Siq, is downhill to the Treasury building (see pics above), but that meant walking back was uphill. Fortunately, I had company, the scores of young boys who were trying to get me to buy postcards for “One Dollah.” While I ended my Petra journey before noon, the rest of the group continued the hike, some going to very high spots and most going to the Monastery (see pics below). So, rather than subjecting you to read more about my toe or the 2-hour nap I took at the hotel, I’ll turn the text to Aran who didn’t return to the hotel with the others until 5 p.m.
Hi folks. Aran here. Sorry, can’t talk about The Treasury without referencing the film that brought it back into popular culture…
LOL . . . ok, enough of that. So, this is actually my second time to Petra and I am thrilled to say, it was even better than before. This is primarily due to my having the opportunity to go up to the High Sacrifice Places. I’ll let you read more about it on your own at the Petra Wikipedia Page (<– click on that) but here’s a video I recorded from “on high” as well as some photos of the stunning views.
On our way down from the High Places, I had one of my “geeky church nerd” moments. We came across an ancient banquet room, carved into the rock (as all of Petra’s rooms and homes and tombs are). But inside was (so geeked out here) a Triclinium. A 3-sided table, open at one end. Those of you who’ve ever heard me talk about Jesus and his friends at the “Last Supper” have probably heard me talk about a Triclinium which was the table around which Jesus and his friends would have been reclining. Not sitting. They wouldn’t have been at a table like you and I sit at. No chairs. A Triclinium is a low to the ground table at which you pretty much spooned with your neighbors to the left and the right. You shared the bowls and plates of food in front of you. It was an intimate dining experience, one that wouldn’t fly at Grandma’s Thanksgiving Dinner! Anywho, I had never seen one in person. Just photos or drawings. And now, here was one used in ancient times, dating back to the time of and even before the time of Jesus. Take a look…
The 5 of us reconnected with the rest of our group at lunch time, after which, many of us made our way up, up, up, up, and up to The Monastery. This is, without a doubt, the most beautiful and breathtaking sight in all of Petra. Many, however, do not go to see it because it is, well, it’s quite a hike. Over 850 steps (not paces, stairs) along with a vertical ascent of more than 720 feet. But, if you can get up there (and back down), it is one of the most incredible and deeply moving experiences of my life. I heard one member of our group say, as we were about to leave, “I feel like I need to say good-bye to this place!” and they promptly made the sign of the cross and spent time in silent prayer. It’s moments like this that cause me to realize that God truly is everywhere. There is no place that we can go that isn’t already DRENCHED in the Presence of God. The only question we must ask is, “Are we willing to seek and find it?”
That’s the end of my words for now. I’ll let the photos of The Monastery do the rest of the talking.
Sorry, one last thing. Do continue to pray for us as we cross from Jordan into Palestine and Israel tomorrow afternoon. But most of all, please continue to
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6