Monday, December 3, 2012

12 Days of Christmas : Day 12 : Trees : Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

One of my favorite Christmas carols is "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree," set to the music of Elizabeth Poston (1905–1987).  

My daughter, Heather, sang this carol while touring in England with the Oberlin Choristers in York Minster under the beautiful Five Sisters window.

Written anonymously ("R.H.") as a poem published in 1761 in New England, the lyrics may be a reference to Song of Songs 2:3 :3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree
I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree

[With great delight I’ll make my stay,
There’s none shall fright my soul away;
Among the sons of me I see,
There’s none like Christ the apple tree.

I’ll sit and eat this truth divine,
It cheers my heart like spirit’l wine;
And now this fruit is sweet to me,
That grows on Christ the apple tree.]
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree

12 Days of Christmas : Day 12 : Trees

The Symbol Dictionary has this to say about TREES: 

The Tree of Life is an important symbol in nearly every culture. With its branches reaching into the sky, and roots deep in the earth, it dwells in three worlds- a link between heaven, the earth, and the underworld, uniting above and below. It is both a feminine symbol, bearing sustenance, and a masculine, visibly phallic symbol- another union.

In Jewish and Christian mythology, a tree sits at the center of both the Heavenly and Earthly Edens. 

The Norse cosmic World Ash, Ygdrassil, has its roots in the underworld while its branches support the abode of the Gods.

The Egyptian’s Holy Sycamore stood on the threshold of life and death, connecting the worlds.

 To the Mayas, it is Yaxche, whose branches support the heavens.

The tree has other characteristics which lend easily to symbolism. Many trees take on the appearance of death in the winter- losing their leaves, only to sprout new growth with the return of spring. This aspect makes the tree a symbol of resurrection, and a stylized tree is the symbol of many resurrected Gods- Jesus, Attis, and Osirus all have crosses as their symbols. Most of these Gods are believed to have been crucified on trees, as well. 

A tree also bears seeds or fruits, which contain the essence of the tree, and this continuous regeneration is a potent symbol of immortality. It is the fruit of a tree that confers immortality in the Jewish creation story. In Taoist tradition, it is a divine peach that gives the gift of immortality. In ancient Persia, the fruit of the haoma bears this essence. The apples of Idun give the Norse gods their powers, much like the Gods of the Greek pantheon and their reliance on Ambrosia. This aspect of the tree as a giver of gifts and spiritual wisdom is also quite common.

It is while meditating under a Bodhi tree that Buddha received his enlightenment; the Norse God Odin received the gift of language while suspended upside down in the World Ash (an interesting parallel is the hanged man of the tarot). In Judeo-Christian mythology, the Tree of heaven sits at the center of creation, and is the source of the primordial rivers that water the earth.   The Tooba Tree of the Koran is a similar idea, from whose roots spring milk, honey, and wine.

This tree and its gifts of immortality are not easy to discover. It is historically difficult to find, and almost invariably guarded. The tree of Life in the Jewish bible is guarded by a Seraph (an angel in the form of a fiery serpent) bearing a flaming sword. To steal the apples of knowledge, the Greek hero Hercules had to slay a many-headed dragon Ladon. In Mayan legends, it is a serpent in the roots that must be contended with. Similarly, the Naga, or divine serpent guards the Hindu Tree. The Serpent Nidhog lives under Ygdrassil, and gnaws at the roots.

The tree as the abode of the Gods is another feature common to many mythologies; in some, the tree itself is a God. The ancient Sumerian God Dammuzi was personified as a tree, as is the Hindu Brahman. The Byzantine World tree represents the omnipotence of the Christian god.

Another form, the inverted Tree, represents spiritual growth, as well as the human nervous system. This tree, with its roots in heaven, and its branches growing downward, is most commonly found in Kabbalistic imagery.

A similar tree is mentioned in the Vedic Bhagavad Gita: “The banyan tree with its roots above, and its branches below, is imperishable.”

In Jewish Kabbalah, the inverted tree represents the nervous system as well- the ‘root’ in the cranial nerves, with the branches spreading throughout the body; it also represents the cosmic tree- rooted in heaven, the branches all of manifest creation.

You can read more about trees in the Bible HERE

My favorite Biblical verses about evergreen trees are these from (surprise!) Isaiah.

Isaiah 60:13   The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree,

 the pine tree, 

and the box together,

 to beautify the place of my sanctuary; 

and I will make the place of my feet glorious.

So, as I write this in Germany, the HOME of the Christmas tree, I encourage you to bring in branches of all the trees you can to decorate your homes and churches (and, yes, I DO know what "Church Policy" says, so be discrete).  Just remember WHO the Tree of Life truly represents.

And enjoy the fruits of the season.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Compass Pilot Lessons : 1956

After I looked through all The Children's Friend magazines and scanned all of LaFawn's artwork in them, I decided to also scan the Primary manuals I knew she had done artwork in, especially the Gaynote manual.  When I searched  in the Church History Library, they did not have ALL the Primary manuals on the shelves. But they did have some from the 1950's.  At random, I pulled out this Compass Pilot manual from 1956 and found Mom's artwork in it!  These turned out to be the earliest pieces of artwork  Mom did for the Primary.

I vividly remember many 'posting charts' around our house that Mom made and used in her teaching.  Some held wordstrips like this one.  It was important to make sure there was enough blank cardboard on the bottom of the wordstrip or picture to lift the words above the folded paper.  Twenty years later, when LaFawn published her "Learning Cards," posting charts were included, as were other teaching ideas she illustrated in 1956. 

The most creative posting chart was a huge one (about 3 feet x 4 feet) she made out of brown butcher paper on one 'wall' of a cardboard appliance box for a fold-up play kitchen.

In the photo below you can see LaFawn's fold-up kitchen : three panels from a cardboard appliance box.  Behind her grandkids (r to l) Adam, Ryan and Chrissa on the left is the "kitchen cupboard" posting chart.

  Mom cut out the cardboard fronts of dry soup and cereal boxes; paper labels from cans were glued onto cardboard to stiffen them.  We had at least 50 products in an envelope that we could then "buy" at a pretend grocery store, and "bring them home" and put the groceries "in the cupboard" (the rows of the posting chart) in the play kitchen. 

 Mom also made small versions of this game which fit inside the flat boxes that nylon stockings were purchased in.  The 'groceries' were pictures of food products from magazine ads which she glued onto cardboard and covered with clear contact paper for durability.

Storage ideas like this hanging pocket also showed up in the "Learning Cards." (see below)

 In the Compass Pilot manual, they encouraged children to play musical instruments like the shepherd boy David had played his harp.

Although LaFawn did not play any musical instruments, she loved music and rhythm, especially as aids to memorization. She had her students sing scripture words to popular tunes or tap out rhythms to songs they were learning