The Long Night And Meaning Of The Lights On The Tree

Recently I made the comment that I was more excited about the 21st of December than I was for the 24th or 25th. The 21st of December is the longest night of year. And, when the dawn breaks on the 22nd the light returns to planet Earth. Most people are aware of the winter solstice and how the early church decided that it was just perfect for celebrating Jesus’s birthday.

Saint John 1:4-5

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Simply put, the lights on a Christmas tree represent Jesus Christ as the light of the world.

The Appalachian Winter is one where we can have snow or rain or both for Christmas but the darkness of December is a constant. The steep incline of our hills and low angle of the sun makes the normally long night even longer. The darkness like sin seems to suffocate you. It brings a coldness that seeps into very core of your being. But just when you think it’s going to be dark forever the light breaks over a distant ridge and the cold night begins to retreat. The light returns and with it comes new life.

As I’ve studied the deeper meanings behind our Christmas decorations I’ve come to understand that the Christmas Tree itself is a microcosm of the Jesus experience. We can decorate the tree with all kinds of trinkets and bobbles and assign different meanings to them and make it a beautiful and artistic expression of our Christian faith but it’s when the lights are turned on that it comes to life and brings us joy.

So, that’s the meaning behind the Christmas lights. It’s the expression of new life coming into world and the exit of the long dark night.

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Light And Shadow

Tonight’s image is the little foot bridge at Cathedral Falls in Gauley Bridge West Virginia .

How do I start this conversation? What clever words can I use to open eyes and hearts? Art is supposed to imitate life. Right? I often get a lot of positive feedback on the light in my photos and I’m always humbled by it. But the truth is that without the shadows you wouldn’t notice the light. Life is a composition consisting of ups (the light) and downs (the shadows). Art gives us the advantage of observing light and shadow from an outside perspective. But, with life we are inside the composition. During the incidents of shadow we don’t really get to observe the light. It exists just outside our perspective. But it is there and as we move on through the composition we will encounter the light as well. We will move through light and shadow in different patterns throughout our lives. It the areas of shadow that gives us an appreciation for the light and it’s the downs of life that makes the up times so special.

Just a few thoughts to keep in mind during dark days. Your life is your own composition. During the times when shadow seems to dominate, it helps me to get out and go find the light.

The Sacrifice Of A Friend

I have a fondness for the Corvus family. Today the crow and raven are associated with darkness and death but I want to share a different perspective.

The Leni Lenape tell the story of the Rainbow Crow. I have not been told the story from any tribal elders etc. In fact, I only learned the legend with the invention of the internet. So with no further ado here is story as I understand it…

The sun seem to sleep a lot over the past few years. The days were dim and short and the night was long, cold and dark. As the chieftain walked through the village the sadness of his people rested on his spirit like a heavy stone. He had tried everything. All of wisdom of his grandfathers, all of the prayers in his lodge and long lonely nights in forest seeking a vision that would tell him what to do. He couldn’t even sit at the council for the crying of the hungry children. He paused for a moment beneath a large spruce tree and began to sob. Then, he heard a rustling is the branches above. It was his friend the crow of many colors that had come to check on him. The crow was magnificent with feathers that shimmered with every hue in the rainbow. He loved the people and he loved the chieftain. The crow tried his best to cheer up his friend by singing in his most beautiful voice. It had always worked in past. The chieftain would smile and forget his troubles for little while. But tonight’s sadness the worst it had ever been. Moving down to a lower branch the crow opened his mouth and once more that beautiful melodic voice came out. “I have never not been able to make you smile my friend. What troubles your soul and how can I be a friend for you?” The chieftain took a breath and began to unload his burdens. He told the rainbow crow of the hungry children and the sickness of the old ones. “If the cold does not end soon my people will fade away forever. ” spoke the chieftain.

The rainbow crow knew in his heart what must be done. He would undertake a journey to the council of the creator and plead on behalf of the people. The journey was long and dangerous. The rainbow crow flew nonstop for many days and nights. When he found the creator he begged for him to end the winter and save the people he loved. The creator agreed and as a token gesture he gave a burning branch to the crow and instructed him to give fire to the people so that they could be warm again. The rainbow crow took the fire in his beak and made the long trip back to the chieftain and his people. He found the chieftain still sulking under the large tree. As he landed, the rainbow crow laid the fire at the chieftain’s feet. In his excitement at finding a way to save the people he tried to speak but the smoke from the fire had destroyed the crow’s beautiful voice and his magnificent feathers were singed black forever.

The chieftain was able to save the people he served as a result of rainbow crow and his sacrifice. So, always after the people would leave food out for the crow and he was always welcomed in the village.

The Sacrifice Of A Friend

I have a fondness for the Corvus family. Today the crow and raven are associated with darkness and death but I want to share a different perspective.

The Leni Lenape tell the story of the Rainbow Crow. I have not been told the story from any tribal elders etc. In fact, I only learned the legend with the invention of the internet. So with no further ado here is story as I understand it…

The sun seem to sleep a lot over the past few years. The days were dim and short and the night was long, cold and dark. As the chieftain walked through the village the sadness of his people rested on his spirit like a heavy stone. He had tried everything. All of wisdom of his grandfathers, all of the prayers in his lodge and long lonely nights in forest seeking a vision that would tell him what to do. He couldn’t even sit at the council for the crying of the hungry children. He paused for a moment beneath a large spruce tree and began to sob. Then, he heard a rustling is the branches above. It was his friend the crow of many colors that had come to check on him. The crow was magnificent with feathers that shimmered with every hue in the rainbow. He loved the people and he loved the chieftain. The crow tried his best to cheer up his friend by singing in his most beautiful voice. It had always worked in past. The chieftain would smile and forget his troubles for little while. But tonight’s sadness the worst it had ever been. Moving down to a lower branch the crow opened his mouth and once more that beautiful melodic voice came out. “I have never not been able to make you smile my friend. What troubles your soul and how can I be a friend for you?” The chieftain took a breath and began to unload his burdens. He told the rainbow crow of the hungry children and the sickness of the old ones. “If the cold does not end soon my people will fade away forever. ” spoke the chieftain.

The rainbow crow knew in his heart what must be done. He would undertake a journey to the council of the creator and plead on behalf of the people. The journey was long and dangerous. The rainbow crow flew nonstop for many days and nights. When he found the creator he begged for him to end the winter and save the people he loved. The creator agreed and as a token gesture he gave a burning branch to the crow and instructed him to give fire to the people so that they could be warm again. The rainbow crow took the fire in his beak and made the long trip back to the chieftain and his people. He found the chieftain still sulking under the large tree. As he landed, the rainbow crow laid the fire at the chieftain’s feet. In his excitement at finding a way to save the people he tried to speak but the smoke from the fire had destroyed the crow’s beautiful voice and his magnificent feathers were singed black forever.

The chieftain was able to save the people he served as a result of rainbow crow and his sacrifice. So, always after the people would leave food out for the crow and he was always welcomed in the village.

The Sacrifice Of A Friend

I have a fondness for the Corvus family. Today the crow and raven are associated with darkness and death but I want to share a different perspective.

The Leni Lenape tell the story of the Rainbow Crow. I have not been told the story from any tribal elders etc. In fact, I only learned the legend with the invention of the internet. So with no further ado here is story as I understand it…

The sun seem to sleep a lot over the past few years. The days were dim and short and the night was long, cold and dark. As the chieftain walked through the village the sadness of his people rested on his spirit like a heavy stone. He had tried everything. All of wisdom of his grandfathers, all of the prayers in his lodge and long lonely nights in forest seeking a vision that would tell him what to do. He couldn’t even sit at the council for the crying of the hungry children. He paused for a moment beneath a large spruce tree and began to sob. Then, he heard a rustling is the branches above. It was his friend the crow of many colors that had come to check on him. The crow was magnificent with feathers that shimmered with every hue in the rainbow. He loved the people and he loved the chieftain. The crow tried his best to cheer up his friend by singing in his most beautiful voice. It had always worked in past. The chieftain would smile and forget his troubles for little while. But tonight’s sadness the worst it had ever been. Moving down to a lower branch the crow opened his mouth and once more that beautiful melodic voice came out. “I have never not been able to make you smile my friend. What troubles your soul and how can I be a friend for you?” The chieftain took a breath and began to unload his burdens. He told the rainbow crow of the hungry children and the sickness of the old ones. “If the cold does not end soon my people will fade away forever. ” spoke the chieftain.

The rainbow crow knew in his heart what must be done. He would undertake a journey to the council of the creator and plead on behalf of the people. The journey was long and dangerous. The rainbow crow flew nonstop for many days and nights. When he found the creator he begged for him to end the winter and save the people he loved. The creator agreed and as a token gesture he gave a burning branch to the crow and instructed him to give fire to the people so that they could be warm again. The rainbow crow took the fire in his beak and made the long trip back to the chieftain and his people. He found the chieftain still sulking under the large tree. As he landed, the rainbow crow laid the fire at the chieftain’s feet. In his excitement at finding a way to save the people he tried to speak but the smoke from the fire had destroyed the crow’s beautiful voice and his magnificent feathers were singed black forever.

The chieftain was able to save the people he served as a result of rainbow crow and his sacrifice. So, always after the people would leave food out for the crow and he was always welcomed in the village.

The Silent Road part 4. The Fireweaver.

After learning the secret written in the stone. I began to make my calculations. The maiden was carefully observing my every action as I removed the jackknife from my pants pocket and started scraping small shavings from the log where she had been seated. Ever so cautiously I collected them in the tail of my shirt. Next I would need a large piece bark and dead twigs from a nearby elder bush. I cut a notch in the bark just like my grandfather had taught me as a child and began to spin a twig in the notch. In no time at all I had a hot coal and was able to sustain it with the shavings. I took the next twig which longer split it perfectly in half. The pithy center was easy to remove and once that was done I bound them together with strands of the tall grass in meadow. I studied the broken dulcimer and committed it’s outline to memory. As I worked I looked up and saw the maiden looking onward in amazement and the raven still circled me above the trees. I placed the first hot coal on the dry wood and began to kindle it with the elder blow tube. I occasionally stepped back to the stone and checked the mathematical formulas carved there by ancient hand that was long since gone. The legacy written was instructions for a new dulcimer. The precision burning of the wood and removal of the char would need to be perfect. I became so involved with the task at hand that time lost all meaning. There was only the fire and the wood and my breath. Periodically a large drop of sweat would fall into the coal and erupt with a long stream of steam. With the jackknife I would put the finishing touches on the piece. Hand carved dovetails to hold it together and keys for tuning the strings recovered from the old one. There it was. My dreamworld had a new voice. I turned to the maiden and offered my finished product along with the parchment entrusted to me by the raven. She spoke not a word but the newfound joy in her eyes was the most profound expression of gratitude I ever experienced. Her eyes danced over the open scroll as she read the music. Then, she tuned the instrument to perfect pitch and took a breath. As she played the first few notes that gray sky rolled back and the birds all began to sing with her. The newly awoken sun pushed back the remaining clouds. With my task completed I began to make the return journey back to the waking world. As I approached the iron gate a now familiar shadow passed overhead. As turned to cast one last gaze on my dreamworld the raven landed on the road. He spoke in a raspy voice. “There is more to see here. You are as much a part of this world as you part of the one beyond that gate. You are the Fireweaver and a prince of the dreamworld.”

The drone of the alarm clock grew more intense as I slowly rose from my bed. The sun was shining through the blinds and just outside my window I could hear a mockingbird singing a song that was oddly familiar…

A Moment Of Grace

I’ve been working on a side project that has me a little down. I’m not ready to reveal the nature of the project. Only that its been hard on me emotionally. But I do think it will worth it. When dark times come just have faith that God is still operating. His grace is shining down on your life even if you don’t really know it. The storm will break. The clouds will part eventually. And, light will return to the world.