HOPE AND FAITH

"Every gray cloud has a silver lining...We're almost out of the woods...When one door closes another door opens...It will all work out in the end...What goes around comes around... Just hang in there...There's always hope...Keep the Faith...and the ever popular, There's light at the end of the tunnel."

By now you've probably heard more clichés fitting our current times than you'll ever want to hear. Regardless of their effectiveness, clichés do often strike at the heart of the matter though offering little comfort.

2008 has been the most unpredictable year most of us have ever experienced, with all due respect to those who personally witness the Great Depression. Today, we face not only an obvious recession but also a world wide financial crisis, but "fear not," (another cliché) we are a very resilient species and in time, we will pull out of it and things are going to get better, that I do truly believe.

We all need to approach the problems at hand with innovative and creative thought and move forward one step at a time toward a brighter future. It may be slow going at first, but the slow and steady method will secure a better foundation for all of our futures. Seeing that the last generation of "get rich quick" was primarily built on sand, we need a good steady wind to guide us all into a safe harbor.

As a nation we have lost confidence in the system, the system doesn't just look broken, it is broken and in dire need of reconstruction; the greatest plans for restoration will only work if we gain confidence in its purpose and outcome. Our financial system is based on product, service and the power of cash to drive it to the market. Money is only a paper document of an agreement backed in confidence by a nation's natural resources and devoted citizens. Regardless what the denomination represented on the legal tender, the greatest value of money resides in four little words of confidence printed on each note, "IN GOD WE TRUST."

I'm not talking about religion, or the lack of religion, but that creative factor that resides within all of us. All human beings are created with an intangible unexplainable substance of mind, spirit and soul, elements and factors that have caused us to excel as a species.

Whether you believe you are created out of divine inspiration or believe you came out of a pumpkin patch you are a creative individual, a free thinker with a sole objective to achieve whatever purpose you have set for your life. The way to reach that goal is through dedication and confidence.

The optimists are standing firm as always under these difficult circumstances and the pessimist are all calling out "the sky in falling" with no hope in sight.

A wise woman once told me that as a child growing up in Minnesota one of her little girl chores was to help carry in the wood. That meant she had the job of carrying what she could by several short trips into the house and stack it by the wood stove. She hated the chore so much that she often cried tears in protest to her father who responded, "you can carry the wood or you can cry and carry the wood, but one way or the other you're going to do it." Though small in stature, her adolescent effort was a welcome contribution to her family's need.

Under today's circumstance it's best we not cry too much and look towards the prospects of a brighter future. Crying or complaining and pointing fingers of blame only make the problems worse and achieves nothing. Emotions can often get to the best of us and the fact is that we can't turn back the clock, it's best to go forward in confidence and determination.

Concerned political, business and spiritual leaders are calling for us all to position ourselves together united in our confidence and faith to help get us through this crisis.

Historically, overcoming hardships has made us what we are today; we have grown as a nation and developed as a species due to overcoming unforeseen circumstance. Hope and Faith are the guiding Light that will carry us through troubled times. As long as we have breath in our lungs there is Hope. As long we maintain a vision towards a brighter future, we have Faith. Hope leads us to Faith and Faith breeds Confidence. Hope, Faith and Confidence are the three elements our nation and the world needs most in these delicate times.

THERE'S LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Each year the Blue Ridge Highlander presents a Mountain Christmas Tale for our readers' enjoyment. It's has always been our desire to make all holiday stories joyous and entertaining, and with so much sadness and concern overwhelming this holiday season Mrs. Highlander and I found ourselves a little lost for meaningful, joyous words.

It is also our goal to have our holiday stories contain a special message along with a happy ending. One of our concerns this year was to not be insensitive to the feelings of the many folks who are faced with financial problems this holiday season.

It's easy to come up with a Christmas story involving a mountain holiday celebration or an unusual Christmas experience with Santa, who can be found every holiday season kicking up his heals and HO! HO! HO-ing, it up with all the children throughout the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains.

We felt this particular Blue Ridge Highlander Holiday Christmas Story needed a more appropriate angle for our present times. What to do, what to do, what to do? That's not a cliché, that's a dilemma.

We were looking for something that would have greater depth and meaning for our story and all I drew was a blank. Mrs. Highlander then recommended something abstract I could ponder on...."There is light at the end of the tunnel," a cliché yes, one that encourages hope. I felt inspired, even though it was one short simple sentence; it was all I had to work with for the moment.

WHITE WINTER DAY

On December 1, 2008 Mrs. Highlander and I woke up to a 3 to 4 inch snowfall, the ground and trees were blanketed in white, it looked like a scene out of the land of Narnia in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

It seldom snows here in the deep valleys of the Southern Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains though the high mountaintops are often white capped. Most often when it snows at night the accumulation is all but gone by the next afternoon. The last time I shoveled snow was two years ago when I proudly put on my coat and boots, grabbed my plastic snow shovel in one hand and a large mug of coffee in the other hand and took off.

I have a long paved driveway that leads into the woods and was ready to take on the challenge. With shovel in one hand, and a coffee mug in the other, I began to push the snow effortlessly from the driveway and down the mountain slope. Before I could finish my coffee the snow began to melt.

Mrs. Highlander and I spent most of our life in the cold winters of the mid-west, snow shoveling there was torturous, I would use a large steel coal shovel and a four foot long ice scrapper, several layers of clothes and forget the coffee.

All this raced through my head as I stood looking out the window that December morning. A snow like this whether up north or down south would usually bring out anyone longing for that White Christmas feeling, "break out the sleds, grab the toboggan, slip on the skis, lets build a snowman."

Standing there, staring out the bedroom window into the winter wonderland, I did what most Midwesterners would have secretly desired to do on a day like this, I turned the alarm clock towards the wall, climbed back into bed, and pulled the covers over my head and mentally said to all those excited about the frozen precipitation, "have a good day." I slowly drifted off to sleep, still perplexed about my current holiday story situation.

About an hour later, I awoke and told my fellow REM companion Mrs. Highlander to hop out of bed and dress warm we're heading out. Asking where we were headed, I told her "you'll see when we get there."

It was still snowing when we mounted up into our 4-wheel drive SUV. Even though large snowflakes were falling, the pavement itself was wet, yet free of snow. Most of the time in the Southern Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains, the snow melts quickly unless it stays below freezing for a couple of days. During those days most mountain folks just set it out till the snow and ice thaws. Due to limited road salt and snowplows, ice and gravity play havoc on mountain roads making driving treacherous during times of heavy snowfall.

Our journey took us along US129/74/19 east through the River Valley country of eastern Cherokee County, North Carolina. The River Valley region reflected a beautiful picturesque setting all covered in snow. This flat elongated mountain valley floor is bordered to the south by the Valley River Mountains and to the north by the Snowbird Mountains, all part of the Nantahala National Forest.

We stopped in the town of Andrews to gas up, $1.77 a gallon, now that's a Christmas blessing. Just past Andrews the long mountain ranges to the north and south meet turning the four-lane highway into a two lane. Up till now the roadway had just been wet, now the snow was beginning to stick to the road, we could have turned back but we chose to press on.

We fell in behind a large logging truck that was having difficulty with the road conditions, it normally takes about an hour to reach the region of our destination and if conditions got worse we could be in for a long drive. A passing lane afford us the liberty to speed up to a blazing 25-miles an hour as we cruised past the big log carrier. Up ahead a distance was the northern turnoff for the town of Robbinsville in Graham County, North Carolina along US129; this entire mountainous region was also beautifully covered in snow.

We continued on US74/19 east. At this point the road begins its winding descent into the Nantahala River Gorge and the snow was coming down even harder. It was mid-day and the heavy snow made it look like twilight, the road was now covered in snow and the descent was steep. The van in front of us and the car in front of that were crawling at 10-miles an hour and slowly bringing our journey to a near stand still.

Our destination lay along the lower slopes in the southwestern region of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and if we didn't arrive soon it was likely that this obscure location in the park would be closed to any vehicle traffic.

Traveling at ten miles an hour and less caused my patience to be challenged. I had at my disposal a 4-wheel drive vehicle with several pulling gears to choose from, my superior technology was giving me a false sense of confidence. We were not just going down hill we were winding down hill, when suddenly the van in front of me dropped his two right tires off the pavement to the right using his tires and the edge of the road as an anchor in order to control the slide he was going into.

I immediately touched my brakes and the anti-lock kicked in, we were no longer driving 10-miles an hour, both vehicles were now sliding somewhat faster, so much for technological superiority, nature was setting the pace now. We both recovered quickly and there was no turning back up that slippery slope, we'll have to continue on to safer ground.

We realized reaching our destiny now was a crap-shoot when we suddenly came out of our last downhill turn along the slippery slope and to our amazement the road pavement was once again clear of snow, only wet pavement lie ahead for now as we entered the lower level of the Nantahala River Gorge. Everything ahead of us was a winter wonderland to the left, the right and above while the road before us glistened like the wet pavement in a movie scene. This was the first time we ever saw the river gorge in snow and it was absolutely beautiful.

We obviously outran the snowstorm though it wasn't far behind, it wasn't to late to turn back up the slippery slope but we chose to carry on. The conditions for our return trip could be either good of worse later in the day, no time to contemplate that now.

The Nantahala Gorge is a steep and narrow mountainous corridor with a low altitude whitewater river passageway that cuts west to east between two large mountain ranges that lay to the north and south. The only alternative for a return trip would be to cross one of these two enormous mountain ranges, either way those choices would be worse due to the high altitude, best to take the gorge back. Halfway through the gorge we encountered less and less snow until almost all signs of snow just disappeared except for the upper steep mountain slopes in this section of the gorge.

As we exited the Nantahala Gorge corridor we enter the central southern mountain valley country with the Great Smoky Mountains to the north, the Nantahala Forest to the south and west and the Pisgah National Forest up ahead to the East. The valley lands were completely free of snow, only the distant mountaintops and slopes had snow cover, it was clear sailing for us now. As we enter the mountain town of Bryson City in Swain County North Carolina, Mrs. Highlander still had no idea where we were going, and to be honest neither did I.

I knew what I was looking for yet I didn't know exactly how to get there. In our hast I left without my map bag and not wanting to ask for directions, I did what any proud man would do, I sent Mrs. Highlander into the local chamber to get a map. Since Mrs. Highlander likes to talk and I like to write, I felt it appropriate and bared no shame in my decision. Out she came smiling as usual, with a map and some fliers in hand. She handed me a map and I noticed the flier she was looking at was just where we were going; it was The Road to Nowhere.

THE ROAD TO NOWHERE

We picked up the trail (road) to nowhere just north of town. To you map readers and road lovers; the "Road to Nowhere" is just a nickname for Fontana Road. I had been exploring along this road once before some years ago but didn't have ample time to reach its journeys end.

Fontana Road is part of a scenic drive created by the Federal Government that was meant to follow along the northern shoreline of Fontana Lake from the town of Bryson City to the community of Fontana near the Fontana Lake Dam. Fontana Road was to be renamed Lake View Drive by the Federal Government.

This 30-mile scenic byway was to crest the lower southwestern slopes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the northern shoreline of Fontana Lake. The roadway began during the WWII era, and was soon halted after only 6 to 8 miles had been constructed due to funding and environmental concerns.

This was a great disappointment to the citizens of Swain County who had family members that were required to give up their lands that they held for generations in order to create this region of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Fontana Lake. Fontana Lake is the largest man-made lake in the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains.

The purpose of the road was to bring not only more tourism to the region but also act as an access road to old family cemeteries that were no longer accessible due to the park and lake development project. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a highly preserved national park with only one major road leading across the parklands, the scenic Newfound Gap Road which cuts through the heart of the National Park from north to south.

So disappointed were the people of Swain County that they began to call the unfinished scenic roadway "The Road to Nowhere." In 2004 nearly 60-years later, the Federal Government chose to pay, a cash settlement of 52-million dollars to Swain County rather than infringe any further upon the fragile parklands of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In order to appease the local folk's heritage concerns the National Park offers trips across Lake Fontana from April through October for folks to be able to access their ancestral grave sites. These efforts towards restitution by the Federal Government are still a sore spot to many old time residents of Swain County, yet what was left behind due to this unfinished scenic road project is quite unique for this remote mountain region. The good news is that over time Swain County and Bryson City have become a very popular vacation destination offering unique mountain beauty and local heritage experiences including the Cherokee Native American Qualla Boundary area.

Today we're going to follow this route up the Road to Nowhere, as though we on the yellow brick road headed into the unknown or should I say unfinished. What lies ahead at the end of this journey is this years Highlander holiday message adding one more holiday tale to our ever-growing adventures in the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains.

We left the snow free town of Bryson City behind as Mrs. Highlander and I headed into the mountains. The lower slopes ahead had some snow on them and the upper reaches were heavily packed, that was a good sign after all the snow we faced at the beginning of our trip. We didn't want another treacherous roadway just beautiful snow scenes. After a couple of miles we were nearing the remote entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Just before we entered the park there was a sign that has been placed on private property by some of the local residents that read, "Welcome to...The Road to Nowhere...A Broken Promise! 1943 ~ ?

A Road to Nowhere - A Broken Promise Lake View Drive - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A broken promise... a road to nowhere. Remember the theme of the mission Mrs. Highlander sent me after? "There's light at the end of the tunnel." I think you might know where were going with this, or we'll just have find out won't we?

As we passed the entrance sign to the National park we were officially driving on what the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has named Lake View Drive, not the Road to Nowhere or even Fontana Road, from here on it's Lake View Drive. At this point we have not encounter any snow even though we had hoped for snow. We'll just have see what lies ahead as I cruise along with my driving companion Mrs. Highlander and our imaginary yellow brick road friends, Dorothy, Toto and those other three troubled souls from the Land of Oz as we make our way on a magical "Road to Nowhere."

What has been completed of the roadway is a beautiful engineering accomplishment; reminiscent of other scenic byways like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherohala Skyway and the Newfound Gap Road. You could probably just imagine what a finished scenic byway like this could have meant to the local tourism market, yet its own uniqueness is still quite profound.

As we wind and climb up the roadway, signs of snow began to appear making the drive even more spectacular. Bold rocks jut out along the roadway, mountain slopes drop downward along the southern edge of the roadway with magnificent mountain views occasionally appearing out of the bare winter season trees. Frosted trees line both sides of the road making the forest all the more enchanting. Each mile we drove was more inspiring than the last as we grew ever closer to our destination.

A glimpse of the great channel waters of Fontana Lake suddenly materialize now and then reminding us travelers the original intent of this marvelously engineered roadway, the anticipation of each and every turn led to greater expectations towards what might have been. As we wind towards to the end of our journey our imaginary spirit companions, the Scare Crow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion shouted out, "it's not the end, it's only the beginning." Dorothy smiled as though see knew what lies ahead and Toto can't wait to get out and pay due respect to the first tree he sees.

The closer we get to our destination the signs of snow began to disappear while maintaining its frosted claim to the higher views just above our heads and on the distance mountaintop crowns and slopes. Suddenly the road just ends, we have arrived.

A Broken Promise

Pulling our vehicle into the parking area we dismount for a well-needed stretch of the legs. Up the trail from the parking area we catch our first glimpse of Mrs. Highlander's holiday recommendation – cliché. There ahead lay an old abandoned road tunnel and the end of the trail on the Road to Nowhere.

There wasn't a flake of snow on the ground as we bundled up and grabbed the photo equipment. Our stroll will take us to the tunnel entrance just up the trail. From there we'll see if there is truly a "light at the end of the tunnel."

This isn't the only road tunnel in the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains, I have several of these road tunnels already in my photo collection but I was hoping for something more obscure and neglected in the way of a tunnel and I was just about the find out if my inspiration was going to be fulfilled, and there it was, perfect in every caliber except the snow I was hoping for. A clean barrel shot right down the middle of the tunnel made it a great photo opportunity.

The old abandoned road tunnel was about a good city block long, blasted and dug through the mountainside with impressive masonry work supporting the tunnel entrance which is rather similar to all the other tunnels Mrs. Highlander have encounter throughout our travels in the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains. The old pavement leading from the parking lot was well worn, not by vehicles but by the weather and neglect, no stripes down the middle or shoulders. I shot a few photos and after a few moments I felt I had fulfilled my goal for the day, such a long journey and now its over. We encountered no one else in the area; all was quiet here in this isolated region, the tunnel stood quietly as if it were a monument to broken dreams and promises on a road to nowhere.

Nature itself was in its dormancy, the giant mountain forest surrounding us was fast asleep as if snow flakes fell upon a field of poppies causing the mountain forest and our imaginary guests from the Land of Oz to lay down for a long winter lap...lions and tigers and sleepy, sleepy bears...oooooh my!

All was quiet and still like the silence on Christmas Eve Night. Mrs. Highlander and I moved closer to the tunnel entrance just to peek inside when a sudden blast of wind tore through the tunnel and hit us head on. It was as if the Mighty Wizard of Oz demanded that we leave his presence immediately proclaiming, "there's nothing here for your kind, be gone and on your way."

This was not the first time today that we considered turning back due to unfavorable conditions. We moved away from the tunnel's entrance convincing ourselves we had done our job and really didn't need to take on the challenge of the cold dark and windy tunnel. Halfway back to the car I suddenly stopped in my tracks and told Mrs. Highlander, "lets go back and see what the light holds at the other end of the tunnel, just ignore the blowing windbag behind the curtain." I pulled up my hood as Mrs. Highlander wrapped her wool scarf around her head. How far away was the light at the end of the tunnel? We'll just have to find out.

The old pavement ended at the edge of the tunnel entrance giving way to a rough floor from one end of the tunnel to the other. We entered the tunnel leaving the beauty of the sleeping giant forest as well as the outer light behind us. We were seeking a new and intriguing light in another world beyond the other end of the tunnel, perhaps a mysterious and mystical land lie ahead beyond the wardrobe as in the land of Narnia.

A different and darkened world emerged with each step we took, a world that was growing so ever darker and shapeless in its form. The echoes of light began to fade fast as we entered into its darker reaches; the wind that tried to discourage us had now disappeared. The Road to Nowhere really came into its total meaning here deep in the tunnel. A nothingness resonated from the interior walls as a meaningless empty voice reverberated against the smooth barrel framed surface of the tunnel's ceiling. The central chamber of the tunnel was pitch black with small half circle lights at either end of the tunnel, so dense was darkness that neither Mrs. Highlander nor I could see one another. Our voices and a sense of each other's personal presence was all that told us we were near to one another.

An unpleasant feeling dwelled here deep in the tunnel chamber, existence and life here created a formless abyss. A kingdom of darkness ruled this region where light was an unwelcome guest, an enemy to its own lifeless state. There was no truth here in this dark kingdom, a kingdom composed of the elements of doubt, fear, disillusionment and discouragement, a world lost in concentrated despair and disappointment, the opposite of light and life. Darkness is a trap of non-truths for those who've lost sight of the light. Where as light itself is full of ever-expanding truth.

A New Beginning in the Light

Standing here in the darkness, divided by the light at either end of the tunnel we could have chosen to go back leaving this lifeless kingdom behind, yet we're being drawn to the unknown light ahead as it drew us towards its ever glowing mystery. Each step brought us ever closer to the light as we soon found ourselves once again being able to see our own hands in front of our faces. The brightness of the light grew more and more as the entrance ahead expanded before us against the horizon.

We exited the tunnel through another masonry archway; the mountain forest and trail before us was bathed in the light of the winter sky. Emerging into the light at the end of the tunnel brought us into a new world that was seemingly more natural in its origins than the one we left behind, it was as though we exited the back of the wardrobe and enter into a peaceful and mysterious new land, an unknown Narnia compared to the Road to Nowhere we left behind.

We felt this new land that lay before us was longing to be recognized for its innocence and newness, crying out to be freed from the clutches of the Ice Queen who held its glorious potential captive from those who desired the light, yet remained in fear and doubt. A new opportunity was ever present here in the light at the end of the tunnel awaiting another chance to be restored from all the broken dreams and promises.

All was pristine; all was beautiful here for those who were brave enough to step into a new light. There was a natural abundance all around, raw in its substance as if paradise anticipated the arrival of the one who would shape a new future out of it with loving and caring hands into something good and wholesome.

What had failed at one end of the tunnel was now a new opportunity to do things differently at a higher standard in a new light, another chance for those who felt defeated.

There is a new beginning in the light for those who feel betrayed, as well as those that made mistakes either blinded by the guidance of others or having to face their own personal failures. The light that shines at this end of the tunnel is no longer a part of the errors one has made on the Road to Nowhere, nor is it a part of broken promises and failed expectations.

If one thinks they have hit the wall of no HOPE, they need to find the FAITH to move over from the center of the darkness of their emotions and disappointments and into a new life of opportunities in order to find a LIGHT that shines ever brighter at the other end of the tunnel.

It's not the urgency of the goals we set before us that we should so much long for; it's the adventure of the journey that we should cherish. If it is our "goals" that we seek only, we miss the richness of our life's experiences along the way. All happy ending are a result of overcoming our trials and tribulation, without them we have no story to tell, our life would be nothing more than blank pages.

Some say there are testing, blessings and a resting. The testing shape us into greater souls, the blessings offer opportunities to excel beyond our expectations filling our lives with tales that are beyond our imaginations. As for the resting, well that's an eternal thing; if one's goal is to rest it's a lifeless goal here on earth. As long as we are breathing there is something we should be achieving, even if it's nothing more than sharing our love, experiences and blessings with one another.

The glory of a new day is awaiting the ones who are willing to reach for the light, passing through the darkness of the tunnel of doubt and fear into a new beginning where we can move beyond our present circumstances standing in the nurturing light of life.

It was now time for us to return through the tunnel and turn that Road to Nowhere into our own Road to Somewhere, putting all the days of broken promises behind us. Hoping in Faith for a greater tomorrow. We need to put confidence back into our faith and move towards the light, for in light there is life and an opportunity for a new beginning. If we remain in the darkness of doubt, apprehension and disappointment we will always remain on a road to nowhere, a road paved in broken dreams and false promises.

As we entered the tunnel once more we could not help but notice all the graffiti covering the walls from one end of the tunnel to the other, about 4 to 7 feet from the ground up, the ceiling from what we could see was free of defiance. Graffiti is often an ugly thing even though it has been around mankind for thousands of years. Too often graffiti is vile or just stupid yet some graffiti artists do quite exquisite work, like the great painting of animals found in the caves of France created by prehistoric man or occasionally a current young gifted artist just looking for a place to display their works. One way or another graffiti is an expression of the human spirit, vile or inspirational it reflects what the person is like internally. I don't appreciate negative graffiti, yet I do understand it as part of freedom of speech on public display.

I asked Mrs. Highlander to take one wall while I took the other as we strolled slowly back into the darkness heading for the light at the other end of the tunnel. I suggested to Mrs. Highlander what she should be looking for, I was just curious about something.

There was so much graffiti along the walls that graffiti covered graffiti, most of it was difficult to make out, it was like trying to read cryptic messages. There were hundreds if not thousands of messages along the walls, most of it was just sloppy with and occasional attempt at a quality design, overall, it was very colorful, at least the part we could still see in the fading light. Some of it was funny; a lot of it was just offensive. I wondered, if Bobby really does love Betty, or does Betty even know who Bobby is, or is Bobby just a frustrated self-proclaimed graffiti artist stalker?

We walked slowly until the fading light completely gave out and for next several minutes we were in the realm of near total darkness heading for the dim light ahead. It was so dark in the tunnel that the dim overcast winter sky was really stingy with what light it had to offer. If you didn't know the walls were on either side of you, you could have easily walked into them.

Even though the natural light was totally absent in the center regions of the tunnel I had a hunch there was plenty of graffiti along the wall and to prove it, I took a flash photo and sure enough my hunch was right. No great feat though, one hand holding a can of spray paint, another with a flash light, it was all so crude and unnecessary. Once we began to see a fragment of light resonating off the walls we began our search along the tunnel walls once again. Upon exiting the tunnel we compared mental notes, neither of us found what we were looking for.

We were both a little surprised we didn't see it. We've seen that name in so many places before but not here. We've seen it sprayed on highway overpasses, on front yard signs, and even written on bathroom walls. The word Jesus in its proper context just wasn't there, and then it hit me. Of course we couldn't find his name in there, Jesus Christ doesn't dwell in darkness, He is the Light.

John 8:12 I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 1:4 - 5 & 9 In him is life; and life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world

The Light of the holiday season is the Light of Christ, a Light that costs nothing, never runs out or gets trapped in the darkness, a guiding Light that would never find itself on the Road to Nowhere.

In the darkness there are no hidden treasures only disappointments. The truly sad thing is, some people never see the light at the end of the tunnel, they just hit the wall and stay there stuck to the side crying woe is me all their live long days. The only thing they find amusing is when another fool hits the wall and gets stuck there with them. The graffiti we found in the tunnel was juvenile, undeveloped, lost in darkness, hopeless and that's where it should remain...in darkness.

Standing in the light keeps us out of darkness. Reaching for the light guides us out of our own confusion and into the glory of the Son. Light guides our Hope and Faith. Without the Light, Hope and Faith can't find their way. Darkness consumes, where as light reveals and prevails.

Discouragement is a natural human emotion. The only proper way to cure a problem is to be recharged by the light of life itself, a substance that is all around us both in the physical as well as the spiritual, we need to only stay in its nurturing rays to maintain our strength and courage.

We headed back to the car, it was time to move on and reach out for our own guiding light. Our trip through the tunnel was like going through a time warp or a black hole. Drawn into its density we stepped into a world where life lost its true meaning and purpose, a world of broken promises and disillusionment. Never losing sight of what was good and decent we were drawn evermore to the light at the other end of the tunnel emerging into another reality, a parallel universe where all things are possible for those who are willing to reach for the light.

The graffiti in the tunnel represented the distortion of reality, trapping the lost within the clutches of darkness where there is no Light, Hope or Faith.

We who seek the truth know Light is life, and without it we perish. We give praise to the Light of the Son, it is He, who has brought the Light back into our lives, conquering the darkness upon the long night of Christmas Eve, forever bringing more Light into our life as the sun grows higher and longer each day, only to repeat the blessing each Christmas season. He is the Alpha and the Omega, eternal in the scheme of life.

Leaving the tunnel behind we rolled slowly down the mountain enjoying the views along this uniquely beautiful byway. All the Road to Nowhere did along this journey was to bring us into a greater sense of reality, we faced the Mighty Wizard only to find an abundance of wisdom in the Light, our hearts were fully renewed, overflowing with exceeding Hope, and our new found courage, restored us with an unyielding Faith. We awoke from the dark sleep of the poppy field and found a road that led us to a greater self-awareness in the Light.

We exited the Road to Nowhere reentering the picturesque mountain town of Bryson City and stopped in a local eatery for a bite to eat. Funny thing about most spiritual experiences, they're good food for soul but still leaves the belly hungry.

In the future, if you find yourself on your own Road to Nowhere, I suggest you turn around and look for a more scenic and enjoyable route for your life, it's out there and in all its glory. Sometimes broken promises just need to be turned towards a new direction.

The day after we returned from our adventure the sun came out and began to melt the snow so Mrs. Highlander went out to capture a few more mountains shots that we're sharing with our Highlander readers along with a few chosen scriptures about Hope, Faith and the Light.

Keep in mind that life will always have its challenges and if you look at the history of your own personal challenges you'll often find its like the snow falls in the southeastern mountains, "here today and gone tomorrow," hey that's another cliché.

Have a Very Merry Blue Ridge Smoky Mountain - Highlander Christmas, and God Bless.

The Highlander

HOPE

Psalms 31:24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.

Psalms 39:7 And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.

Psalms 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

Psalms 78:7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

Psalms 146:5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:

FAITH

Matthew 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Matthew 9:22 Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.

Mark 4:40 Why are you so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?

Mark 11:22 Have faith in God.

Luke 7:50 Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace.

Luke 17:19 Arise and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Luke 22:32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

LIGHT

Genesis 1:3-4 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Psalms 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalms 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and light unto my path.

Matthew 4:16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

Matthew 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify you Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 6:22-23 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.

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