Light in the Darkness

14 11 2011

People often find the darkness inside an Orthodox church a bit disturbing. I have heard other Orthodox Christians mention various reasons as to why this is so: to help us focus, to distance ourselves from the distractions of the world and other reasons. To others it just seems to be a place of darkness and with the darkness it seems on the surface to be contrary to what we think it should. After all shouldn’t being in Church be a place of light?

As the Nativity fast is soon upon us, my thoughts were turning toward preparing my heart for the coming of the Nativity of our Lord God and Savior in the flesh. That wonderful time of year that is for Christians a time of reflecting and remembering the birth of Jesus – Christmas. The Nativity season doesn’t end “officially” in the church until Theophany also know as Epiphany. This season is known as the festival of lights.

As a child raised in a Lutheran Church, we, as a family looked forward to the Advent services and especially the Christmas Eve services. During each Advent service we would light one special candle on Sunday to again prepare our hearts. Then came the midnight Christmas Eve services which usually started around 11:00 in the evening and it would end on or a bit after midnight. During this service all the lights in the church were extinguished and then each of the Advent candles were lit with a special Scripture reading. Finally it came time to light the Christ candle. Upon the Christ candle being lit, the Pastor would take his own individual candle and light his candle from the Christ candle. The Pastor would then light one of the candles of one of the other members of the church, who in turn would pass the lighting on to another, until each one of us had our own individually lit candle. By the time everyone had their own candle lit, the room was no longer dark. We were no longer sitting or standing in darkness.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”  Isaiah 9:2, The Holy Bible, New King James Version

“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people but the Lord will arise over you and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”  Isaiah 60:1-3, The Holy Bible, New King James Version

Jesus said of Himself that He was the Light of the World. The scriptures have numerous references to God and especially the God-man Jesus of being light and in Him is no darkness. As Christians we are exhorted to let the life of Christ, the light of Christ, shine out of our own hearts and lives.

We have many artistic renditions of the Nativity with some very common themes that illustrate the Nativity story in paintings, sculptures and in the Orthodox Church icons. It is the Nativity icon I find many expressions of darkness contrasting light. The cave in which Christ is born is pictured dark and out of the darkness the light of Christ is shining. It was dark in the sky until Angels appeared and lit up the sky. And let’s not forget the magnificent Star, the Magi from the east followed to where the baby Jesus lay.

In the services of the Orthodox Church there are many reminders to help teach us eternal truths. One of the reminders is a darkened church. There is light in the surroundings, but the lights are strategically placed in front of icons in the form of candles: in the memorial boxes and small oil lamps (lampadas). There is usually a big light such as a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. In the evening Vespers service the candles and lampadas are lit, but the overhead lighting is off, until a certain moment when we sing a song that begins with “O Gentle Light of the glorious…”

I am not an Orthodox “expert” by any means, so hear are my humble thoughts on these expressions of contrasting light and darkness. Jesus came into a dark world as the Light of the world. Each time a candle is lit in front of an icon we remember the particular saint or angel as one who has the light of Christ dwelling in them. The “halo” around various saints and angels reflects the glory of God shining from their faces and their lives.

So much more symbolism in the candles, the flames, oil burning in the lampadas, everything to remind us that although we are in a dark world, we have the light of Christ with us always. And just as the light from the Christ candle is One glorious light – it is still passed on person to person. So the next time you find yourself surrounded by darkness look for the light, perhaps bring a light to someone else in darkness. Where do we get this light? We receive the light from the Lord Jesus Christ himself who even the darkness, the darkness is light to Him.

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Christmas Letter 2009

17 12 2009
Natvity Scene
Eastern Christian Orthodox Nativity Icon

For Unto Us a Child is Born… Unto Us a Son is Given!

 “Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world as the light of wisdom. For by it those who worshipped the starts were taught by a star to worship Thee the Son of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Wisdom from on high.” (Nativity Troparion) 

“The Virgin today gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. Angels and shepherds glorify Him, and wise men journey with a star. For a young Child is born for us, Who is the eternal God.” (Nativity Kontakion) 

The above are Eastern Christian Orthodox Hymns on the Celebration of the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Dear Family & Friends, 

 I can not believe how quickly Christmas is approaching and another year is coming quickly to an end. As usual, I can honestly say my life is not dull and I have had another “interesting” year. I have kept quite busy more than the past several years. I have had my share of trials, and yet many of my friends and family have had suffered far greater than I. Again, I have so much to be thankful to God for. As I reflect back on this past year I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and that He ALWAYS answers prayer. I know God is faithful and is truly Emmanuel, “God is with us”. He has truly been with me even in my stumbling, my falling, my stubbornness, my foolish pride, in spite of it all… He is still with me. I can look back and see His hand guiding me, supporting me and comforting me even in my darkest days. 

It has been 7 years since I left the Pregnancy Center and I am still officially considered “disabled” and unable to work a “regular” part-time job. Still in spite of the day to day changes and all the unplanned ups and downs. God is still teaching me to make the most of each day that He has given and just because I may not be “doing anything” I can still pray and worship my Creator. 

I had my third year anniversary with Petco as a Dog Trainer this past October. I am the only Dog Trainer at our Petco facility and I can honestly say I get to go to work and play with dogs and meet all kinds of new people! I am also still plugging away at my other business of building websites and doing the occasional business consulting or some other odd job. I still continue to housesit (rather check in on and take care of) Jan’s 4 Cockatiel birds and take care of plants, yard, pool, and anything else while her and her husband travel off and on throughout the year. 

Sometime in late January or February (I can’t remember) I fell out of a tree while trimming some errant dead branches. So I began another round of Physical Therapy and although I have two bulging discs one of which was torn, after going through Physical Therapy, my back is in better shape than it has been in years. 

In March, the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation authorized retraining and education for me to attend the Animal Behavior College to become a Professional Dog Trainer (technically that is what I am at Petco) but this will in the future open doors of opportunity for having either potential growth via Petco or branch out on my own a bit more. I finished the online and book learning in August and began my externship with a Dog Training Mentor in September. I finished phase one of three before the rains and the weather permitted anymore. I hope to finish the last two phases early spring. I also hope to begin my volunteer requirements with the Shasta County Animal Control after the first of the year. When my externship and volunteer phases are completed, I will then take my final exam. I hope to continue with my dog training education in working with Shelter dogs and rehabilitating problem behavior dogs and dogs who have aggression issues. 

During the Spring/Summer of this past year I taught Agility classes for the Nor Cal Dog Training Club and had a great time. Also with the Nor Cal Dog Club and through my own dog training business, me and a few friends of mine did some demonstrations at some local elementary schools in April and June. We did Obedience, Agility, Flyball and Tracking demos. It was lots of fun for the dogs, the kids and us! 

I have also been busy doing demos or having informational booths at various “animal/dog” events in and around my community. 

In April, I had an info booth and offered the AKC Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) testing for the annual “Love Your Pet Expo” a benefit for local animal rescue groups. My Shetland Sheepdog, Dani Joy, did some Agility and Flyball demos at this event and had a great time. 

In May, I participated in the Haven Humane Society’s Dog-a-thon. 

In August, I did some demos with 2 other dog trainers in the area at the Open House for the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Manton (near Shingletown east of Redding). Unfortunately, Dani Joy ended up with a foxtail embedded in her chest wall and had to have surgery as it was headed to the heart/lung cavity. Thankfully, she is doing great now. Also in August, I had an informational booth with Petco at a fundraising event called “Woofstock” a benefit for a local animal rescue group. 

In September, I coordinated a demo event for the Nor Cal Dog Training Club at the annual Honey Bee Festival in Palo Cedro where we did Agility, Rally Obedience, and Flyball demonstrations. My two Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties) Patrick Ryan and Dani Joy showed off their stuff in Flyball and Dani Joy got her picture in the Palo Cedro newspaper. My Italian Greyhound Skippy did some beginning Agility at the demo as well. Also in September, I went to the 2nd Annual Chico Canine Carnival, a benefit for Animal rescues in Butte County. I offered the AKC CGC testing and my dogs did Flyball demos. I was supposed to do some Flyball demos and some more AKC CGC testing for the Siskiyou Paws for Walk fundraising event that same month, but ended up coming down sick. 

In October, I coordinated a dog-sport community event in Anderson called “Pawsibilities Unleashed” where we had numerous dog trainers, dog sporting activities and animal rescue groups putting on demonstrations, offering information and encouraging responsible dog ownership. 

After that event ended, I resigned from the Nor Cal Dog Club. I am now also an inactive member with my flyball team the Gold Coast Flyers. 

I am very focused on working at Petco, getting my education and certifications needed for being a dog trainer. 

Still on the subject of dogs… over Memorial Day Weekend I traveled down to my dad’s home in El Dorado, CA and went to the “Hangtown Kennel Club’s Dog Show” where I had Patrick Ryan entered for 3 days in competition Rally Obedience (Rally “O” for short). He came home with 2 qualifying scores. He needed 3 to get a Rally Novice title, unfortunately, his owner (me) messed up – always “handler error” – and it was his best performance of the weekend and my dad and step-mom, Marti were there to cheer me on and take pictures. 

In the second week of June, I went to a four day dog show in Gridley, CA and entered both Dani Joy and Patrick Ryan in Rally “O”. Dani Joy got her title in Rally Novice on the fourth day. Patrick Ryan got his Rally Novice on the first day, and 2 qualifying scores on the 2nd and 3rd day, in Rally Advance, however, like the last show, Patrick did a “star” performance but once again – handler error! So we need another show to get his title in Rally Advanced. I was still so very proud of them! 

Skippy got his AKC Canine Good Citizenship while we were at the Chico Canine Carnival in September, which is his first step in any kind of event. I hope next year to enter him into Rally “O” and by the way, he is finally house-trained! Skippy will be 4 years old in March. He still has some behavioral issues to work through like “resource guarding” he thinks EVERYTHING belongs to him, the living room, Dee, the cats, the toys, the yard, etc. 

Patrick just turned 10 years old this past week. He is showing more of his age and he is losing a bit of his hearing. But he is still as smart as a whip. He is now learning new tricks and I am thinking of taking up the sport of Canine Freestyle (a.k.a. doggie dancing). 

Dani Joy will turn 7 years old in January and is still the live wire as ever. Although she has mellowed just a touch enough to focus more on commands and do her Rally “O” and a few tricks too! 

Dee still has her 2 beautiful Havana Brown Cats, Alexandria Rose, better known as “Buppie,” and Misty Rose. They will both be 5 years after the first of the New Year. They still play and chase each other around the house like a couple of kittens. Shawn who was a rescue kitten grew into one big BOY and was terrorizing the other two so he was placed into another home. 

Our newest addition arrived at our home Wednesday afternoon, December 9th, via an animal rescue group from the Burney/Fall River Mills area. They brought to our home a 10 month old male pup named “Bingo” who is ¾ Australian Kelpie and ¼ Queensland Heeler. He is a FOSTER dog that I am helping to rehabilitate so he goes with me to Petco and helps me teach my dog classes. He came from an elderly man who had beaten the dog and threw him outside in 6 below zero weather.  He had no fenced in yard in the mountains and the dog was often found running along the side of the roads and freeway. He was terribly mistreated and the rescue group had been trying to get the man to surrender the dog to them for quite some time. The rescue group paid to have him neutered in November and he got at least a Rabies shot, but hadn’t had any other vaccinations. He was starving for love and attention and terribly neglected. He is very smart and learns commands very quickly. 

It is a delight to work with such a sweet dog. It is also sad to see him belly crawl and cringe and the slightest movement that reminds him of his mistreatment. He had never been on a leash, been in a crate and stayed outside most of the time. He is now wearing a harness and is walking on a leash beautifully, is crate trained, knows several basic commands and gets along with all the other animals except Skippy and Buppie, who don’t like him, but Bingo is smart enough to stay out of their way. 

I will keep working with him at least through January and see him through his second set of vaccinations and get him ready for adoption, with nice manners when he is ready to be placed again. We have since renamed him, “Christmas Beau Ty,” and call him “Beau Ty.” It seems to fit him perfectly. There are many offers for a home for him coming in when I am at work. 

My private dog training business has been primarily focused on private lessons with one-on-one training with the dog and the dog owner. It has been challenging and very rewarding. I created a new website just for my dog training business it is www.k9keltsdogtraining.com 

I have had only one new website job which was a barter/trade deal for some furniture. So I now have a new sofa, loveseat, 6 foot bookcase, and a futon that folds out to a double-bed. Their website is www.salesdirectsofamattress.com 

If you are looking for some unique gifts for friends or family or for yourself… check out my website at www.kieranna.com and look under web design and/or web portfolio and take a look at some of the sites I’ve built. I am always looking for new websites to build. 

My roommate, Dee, continues to be completely disabled due to her back injury and constant Fibromyalgia pain. However, she has over 20 penpals that she corresponds with on a regular basis including a couple of ladies in prison. Her youngest son Joey got married this past year and lives in Colorado. Her oldest son, David and his wife Crystal, were recently medically discharged from the Army and have moved to Red Bluff, just 15 minutes south of us. So Dee is pleased to have at least one son close to home and his 4 boys live in Redding with their mom. Her middle son, Tim, is still not in any contact with her and she rarely gets pictures or notes from his ex-wife about the other 2 grandchildren. It breaks her heart, so please pray for that situation. 

I know longer attend St. Andrew’s Serbian Orthodox Church, but I occasionally attend St. Nicholas Orthodox Church of America. I am trying to become more of a regular attendee, however, I often work nights and find it very hard to get up in the morning… (I never was a morning person anyway and now it is more difficult). 

In June & July my sister traveled to Ireland and then to Israel for research work for Westmont College where she is a Professor of Communications Studies. 

My Dad is still the Pastor of El Dorado Community Church and Marti, my step-mom still runs their bookstore, in El Dorado “Books-n-Bears”. 

In August, my family (Dad, Marti, Deb & Keith) and I (and 3 Shelties, mine and my sister’s) went on our annual family vacation but this time it was in some connected cabins along the Russian River. We had lots of fun canoeing, fishing, playing games and walking along the beach and visiting the little tourist shops around the area. 

My youngest brother Matthew Jason Dunn is a singer/songwriter/dancer and is loving his life! He recently moved to a beautiful new home in Aptos, CA. 

During the last part of October I came down with a stomach/intestinal virus and so did Dee. It was awful, but nothing like when I came down with the Swine Flu over Thanksgiving weekend. As it went through its course, I then came down with a secondary respiratory infection a mild case of pneumonia. So I was off work for 8 scheduled days… so my dog training schedule went haywire… but I am back at work and things are getting back on schedule. 

I have entered another technological phase of our world of text messaging and social networking. So I am on FaceBook, MySpace, ZooToo, LinkedIn, Classmates.com, and a few others that I don’t remember. So if that is your thing look me up. 

My life is interesting, changing and I am changing and growing. I am still gradually gaining some of my health and hope to continue getting well. I am also constantly reminded the reality of life is about getting old and our journey towards eternity; this is earth and not heaven. What really matters is how we lived in light of eternity and our relationship with others and with God. The Three Maji

I pray that this year will be one of renewed hope and commitment in your own journey towards eternity and walking with God.

Thank you for being in my life, for being who you are, for being a blessing, for praying for me, and the privilege of me praying for you. 

Much love, hugs and prayers for you and your family.

God’s Blessings to All of You this Christmas 2009

By God’s Mercy & Grace – Kieranna Kathleen








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