Friday, December 10, 2010

Eighth Night: Celebrate!

Each year our family celebrates Scripture, history, prophesy, Light and promises for eight special nights in December.

Here are some of the the verses we study during that time: 

God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness
Genesis 1:3-4  (Side note: the sun and moon were created three days later...what light shone for 36 hours until the sun was made?   Even thought about that?)

King David said:  "For You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness."
Psalms 18:28

St. John said "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
John 1: 4-5

Aged Simeon, promised of the Lord that he would not die until he saw Israel's Messiah.  Upon seeing the infant Jesus brought to the Temple, he declared "My eye have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel."
Luke 2: 30-32

Jesus went into the Temple in winter at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) and there before the kindled lights proclaimed "I am the Light of the world, he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life."
John 1: 4-5

Prophetically, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the future, and the role of the restored Israel:
"Arise, shine; for your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you...And nations will come to your Light, and kings to the brightness of your rising."
Isaiah 60: 1-3

Then there is the final description of the new Heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal dwelling place of those who have been covered with the shed blood of the Messiah, and who embraced His Light:
"And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the Glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light..."
Revelation 21: 22-27

It is these scriptures and more that have led our Christian family to embrace the celebration of Hanukkah.

(For some reason, Orange Cats seem especially attentive to Hanukkah candles.)

(Tiggie never missed a single night of Hanukkah, and would sit and stare at the lights, and sometimes just close his eyes and purr. One year he and Bernie even did a praise song and dance together. You can re-visit it HERE.)

We've celebrated Hanukkah for years now; Bernie bought a Hanukkah candle stick holder in Israel when he visited there before we got married. 
Originally I just figured as long we had the thing, we might as well use it.
I would make latkas (potato pancakes, basically) and we would spin dreidles and give the kids very small gifts each night.
I welcomed the time back then because in the midst of the Christmas hustle, I could count on quiet family time each evening while the candles were glowing.
Quite a soothing thing, just enjoying candle burning and simple family fun.  Decorating was easy; just the Hanukkah candle holder, some candles, a couple of dreidles and gold covered chocolate coins. 
Lots of years I wondered why I found the minimum decorations and candle time more satisfying than Christmas.
It wasn't until around 2002 that I started to really look into the what the Feast of Dedication was all about.
Jesus made a point of celebrating must be important, right?
I discovered that in eight nights, we would be celebrating the entire scope of God's plan for mankind.
The Christmas celebration of the birth of Our Savior was part of those eight days...right in the middle of it in fact.  Celebrating and reflecting on the entire "beginning to end" Scripture promises and studying the concept of Light mentioned throughout Scripture totally enthralls me.  The more we study, the more we learn, each and every year, and each year I find more aspects of God to rejoice in.
(This was the first Hanukkah our DIL had ever celebrated.  Our son Jeff was eager to come; he loves my latkas, and is the meanest dreidle player you would ever want to see.)

This year for the last night, Bernie made a brisket in the slow cooker while I was at work, and took over latka frying duties as well.  I slipped up and didn't put as much onion and salt into my latka recipe as usual. Bernie likes to cook latkas to rather burnt on the outside and rather raw-ish in the middle.
The kids plowed through several pancakes anyway.
They are hugely into fitness and eating right; that they would shovel down four and five fried latkas proved that despite Bernie's cooking variance, the latkas were enjoyed with gusto.

After we had eaten (more than) our fill, we lit the candles. 
First the middle candle is lit with a match; it is called The Servant Candle in Hebrew. 
Hmmm....isn't that interesting?
The Servant then lights the other candles.
That's why there are nine candles in the holder for an eight day celebration.
First day, the Servant and one other candle is lit.
Second day, Servant and two other candles, etc.
Thirty six candle in all are lit over the eight nights.
Hmmm...what was that again about 36 hours of a special mysterious Light that shone before the creation of the sun?
And wasn't there something in the Bible about the Eighth Day...the final chapter of creation, when there will be a New Heaven for us believers?
And did you know that the word Hanukkah is an acronym from the Hebrew sentence "Who is like you Oh Lord from amongst the gods?"

The cats and the kids listened to the scripture lesson for the Eighth Night.

I explained the significance of olives and olive oil throughout scripture.
Most people know that the Jewish Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the one day's worth of Kosher oil found in the temple lasted eight days, the time it took to create more Kosher olive oil.
There is more symbolism about olives and olive oil than that. 
There's some heavy symbolism as to why Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives!
(If you are interested in learning more about that, click HERE for a link!)
Of course, like most young creatures, Tate was more interested in scoping out the Hanukkah presents.

(Eventually Tate settled in with our Christmas frog.
The Christmas frog: That is another whole story without a shred of religious symbolism, except that it makes us laugh.)

Tradition dictates that the candles be lit and placed in a window so the whole world can see the light.
Hmmm....another concept that is central to our Christian teaching.
No bushel baskets to be found here tonight!

I had made latkas for just us two last week on night number 4, Friday night.
I think mine cooking was better...he thinks his was.
One of the things I like about Hanukkah is that it lasts eight nights. 
No trying to crowd the holiday into one 24 hour period, and each night is an opportunity to invite people to come over for candles.
Almost everyone can work in an hour or two to come by given eight nights to work it in.
IF there are issues with weather, work, travel, sick kids...not a problem. The next night or the one after that will be just fine too!
Talk about a stress buster!

The dreidle, for those who don't know, is played because the Jews required ten men to be rounded up for prayers, to form a minion. 
(Frankly, I think that would SO strengthen the Church if our men had to connect with each other for prayers in that way, but I digress.)
The Romans forbade the Jews from praying. 
The Romans had no problem with folks gambling.
The Jews would carry small spinning tops with them.  If during their prayers they saw an approaching law enforcement person, they would whip out their dreidles and begin to play.
Can't you hear them now: "Just betting on Gimel, officer.  Look, I'm up three shekels already!"
Jeff and Rachel played dreidle at an intensity level that I had never seen before.
There was shouting, blowing on the dreidle, and some heated discussion about the rules.  What a hoot!
All for a few chocolate coins which this year were made in the image of world currency.
US, Israel, UK and Canadian coins were in the lot.
Go figure why that was.
When it is just Bernie and me playing dreidle, we often involve our cats in the game.
Tigs and Hart used to be really impressive dreidle players too.
They could swack those tops clear across the room!
We let the new cats check out the dreidles, but will wait until next year to really let them play.
It will give them something to look forward to.
I'm already looking forward to next year.
And really looking forward to the ultimate Eighth Day with God in Heaven.

(If you would like to consider celebrating Hanukkah next year, you might wish to use the Candle Lighting Scripture readings that we use which can be printed out from HERE.)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Decking Outdoors: Done!

Mr. B and me donned our down jackets, hats and gloves and finished the outside decorating last night.
He had put the lights up on the eaves and lamp post last weekend; together added lights to the ground level areas.
I do believe we have the most festive abode in the neighborhood.
The snow on the front lawn helps with the whole holiday cheer effect.
The basket by the front door has cinnamon scented pine cones, some gilded and sparkled with white glitter.
It is a full on multi-sensory experience outside my house.
Added fun: Color changing LED tea lights tucked into snow igloos along the walkway.
I've always wanted to try this idea, but it had always been suggested on decorating sites as having a real candle inside the snowballs. 
That would be a bit trickier to manage each evening; the LED tea lights will last longer with no heat, are safer, and change colors too!
Love it!  
(I found them at the Orange big box store while we were getting a few more light strands.)

Rudy the Regular Nosed Iron Reindeer is barely up to his ankles in snow right now.
You might recall seeing him up to his nose in snow last year in April... 
(You can also see the lighted igloos behind the lamp if you look carefully.)
Inside: FOCIT Tate is polishing his posing skills. 
I traditionally place a red basket with green trim out on our hearth to fill with Christmas cards and letters.
He took one look at it and decided that this was just the perfect napping place.

He's going to outgrow this basket in another day or two.
Actually I think he is a tad too big for it now.
(Us grown up kitties enjoyed a ruby red Cosmo. Such a pretty drink.)
Hmmm....I sure hope I don't have to fight Frenchie for my drink.  Last thing I need is a Lynx Point Snowshoe Siamese lush in the house.
Yup, I think Tate has got "Posing" down pat.
I'm giving him an "A+" in posing in fact.

Bernie had taken him outside for a bit, and we had let him touch snow for the very first time. 
Snuggling by the fire made him a lot more happy.
Snoozing on the electric warming throws with Bitsy works good too.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Another Hike: Mill Creek Canyon in Snow

I mentioned a few posts ago that we flew out of SLC to San Diego for Thanksgiving leaving the town just ahead of a blizzard.
When we returned home five days later, it was still snowing outside and the world was buried in white.
FOCIT Tate couldn't seem to take his eyes off the scene outside.

Just to give you one kind of idea of how much snow was out there.

(Man! That's a lot of snow!  Glad I have my own litter box inside!)

Another way of demonstrating how much snow we had gotten:
The traditional hand against the snow picture.
It was Monday after the Thanksgiving day weekend and I still had a day off from work.

There was a break in the snow fall and I decided it would be just the perfect thing to head up into Mill Creek Canyon (the one about five minutes from our house) and see how the snow had changed the landsc
Want to come along with me on my hike?
I promise you, it will get you in the mood for a Winter White Christmas.

Only a couple of weeks before I had photographed this road winding between bright fall colored trees. 

Ditto this road side stream.

The sound of running water is quite chilling, but nice.

The Scout campground and cabins now looked quite picturesque in the snow.

(This is the rest of the scene that is my most recent blog header.)

Do you remember seeing this bridge surrounded in autumn splendor?
Now I think I prefer how it looks in snow.

Come summer I think I shall attempt to wade here.

For now, jcrossing the bridge is a more daunting proposition.
Heck, even getting this close to the bridge is a real adventure.
The snow was above my knees, and I was wearing snow boots and jeans, not expecting to be pushing through such deep snow.

I dared not get too close to the stream edges; it was impossible to tell where I might sink in to a semi frozen bank and trip into the icy water.

In the mood for a picnic? 
Inside, back in the car, not here of course.

Christmas card picture worthy, right?

And there's a nicely flocked Christmas tree.

But other trees looked as though someone had gotten carried away with the spray on snow. It is just such a fine line between just enough flocking and way, way too much flocking. 
Even happens when the flocking is real snow sometimes, don't you think? cocoa with marshmallows would be good about now.
Wonder why I suddenly started thinking about marshmallow?

Each step was an adventure since I had no idea if the snow was on a path, or covering some bush.  In this case...well, I still don't know exactly what that thing was.

More traditional hand against the snow shot for the record.

I knew what this was: a fire ring.
It reminded me of a special kind of sponge.
Anyone else remember using those sponges that were briefly on the market?
(Either you do or you don't....I was bummed when they were no longer available.)

An icicle ruffle!

I wondered if the other footprints on this path belonged to a photographer as well.

I had a mad desire to drive home and get a Christmas wreath to hang on this bridge.

I had taken this same shot when fall leaves of every color speckled the rocks beneath the water.

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I wasn't kidding about the snow being above my knee.
Snowshoes are on my Christmas wish list after this walk.

Actually, this is the blog header shot.  Doesn't it look like a painting? 

Hiking back, another try at picturing the stone bridge just right.

This tall tree was a solitary blaze of color a few weeks ago.

The tree was just across from the Mill Creek Inn, a popular restaurant for romantic events. 
The one young woman who accepted a proposal here from a handsome Marine should consider re-visiting the place in winter some day.

The small bench out front, just big enough for two is not quite so inviting now.  Tiny twin trees seem to be watching over it, awaiting more romantic scenes in the future.

Since it was Monday, the restaurant was closed so I could take a bit of a peek inside.  I didn't get too close though...those icicles looked dangerous.

I was able to take the icicle picture from the safety of the decked out porch.

I personally had never seen icicles this long before.

Oh to be inside when the sun would hit the icicles; they must sparkle quite brilliantly in sunlight.

I'm still waiting for my invitation to dine here...hint hint...

Anyone recognize this stream sight?
One stream running sideways into another stream?

Yes, once again, the first hike I ever took here began at this trail head.
It is Porter Fork!

And across the way is the landmark that I never get tired of photographing through the seasons.

Sometimes the stream is surrounded by wildflowers, sometimes with colorful leaves and now with snow, of course.

I also never tire of how beautiful bare branches look etched in snow against the sky.

Just a tiny lingering bit of summer's wild roses, going now to late seed.

Seriously, I love photographing this thing.

It probably has a name....and I should plan to actually hike up to it next summer.

The only people I saw were the die hard sporty types.
They had parked at the gate that leads up to the top of Mill Creek Canyon.
The road up is changed into a snow shoe/Cross Country ski run in winter.
I had to laugh...there was a new born baby mewling inside this snow carriage.
Mom and Dad were planning of CC skiing with their newborn.
From the kid's wails, I think he/she would have rather stayed in the womb...or gone to Hawaii instead.
Silly parents. Wouldn't it have been more fun to cuddle the babe before a warm fire, singing lullabyes and perhaps decorating the baby's first Christmas tree?

The whole two hours I was in the canyon there was snow flakes dusting me, and fog fought with sunshine, making distance vistas look soft and mystical.

I still don't understand how snow can cover running water like this.

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Can't you picture a one horse open sleigh being trotted across this bridge?

A snow hamburger bun for those who wish to use the grill to make an imaginary snow hamburger.

Isn't the snow covered bit on the side of the bridge and the curved snow build up on the fencing facinating?

Take a closer look!

Wispy branches dangle between me and the stream.

With the leaves cleared, more of the landscape can be seen.

Just so you can know that Mill Creek Canyon is also part of our National Forest.

Another favorite scene to photograph.

Isn't this (rabid?) dog a beauty?
Actually I watched him nosing around in the snow at a distance and was quite amused at his snow trimmed muzzle and whiskers.  His owner was enjoying skiing along with him,

One last shot of the Canyon landscape...

Then  a quick drive home, where the snow lady is nearly up to her bustle in snow, and my across the street neighbor's lacy house trim looks like it was somehow made from snow too.

Today, a week later, the snow is almost all gone.
I still have not had my fill of snow; this girl is hoping for a White Christmas too!