When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
This week I was given a wonderful opportunity to see an amazing experience of nature, the synchronous fireflies of the Great Smoky Mountains. No one really knows exactly why this specific species of fireflies flash synchronously but it is related to mating ritual for these beetles that live for only 21 days once they reach adult stage.
(While I did try to take pictures, I don’t have enough knowledge or the equipment to actually take a good image. To really capture what we saw I think would take a very special cinematic camera and lens. A photographer would also need the ability to do something called light painting or take images on a full moon, both of which impact the fireflies. So this image is the best I could do. )
The occurrence of the fireflies in early summer has become so popular that the park has developed a lottery for parking tickets and then transports the lottery winners by trolley to Elkmont campground. My friend won one of the 1,800 spots out of the 28,000 entries and could take a carload. We arrived in Elkmont at dusk, found our spot by the little bridge just off the Little River Trail, put up our chairs, and just waited.
It wasn’t what we expected to see - it was much more amazing than I can describe. I guess I thought it was going to be kind of like a flashlight that someone would turn on and off to signal someone. It was more like a thousand twinkling lights followed by a period of deep darkness. Even though there were a lot of people there it was quiet, like a sacred moment when being still is more important than talking.
This experience comes to me during Pentecost and it has made me think much more about the Holy Spirit. Like the disciples and followers of Christ who were waiting in the house as Jesus had directed them, I waited in the woods with good friends for this special experience, none of us knowing exactly what to expect. This made the experience even more special. At first there was only a random light of a firefly here and there as I see each summer, but gradually the lights got closer together and the longer we waited the more the fireflies synchronized their lighting. There, in the darkness when we could no longer see each other, the fireflies were like sparkling jewels surrounding us. Each twinkling at their own pace but at the same time. The longer we live in community, each one using the diverse talents the Lord gives, and do the hard work of loving as Jesus loved, the more we see the Holy Spirit accomplishing his purpose in our lives. And as scientist can’t really explain the synchronous fireflies completely so we cannot explain the ways of the Holy Spirit. We only open our hearts to the experience knowing that in some ways we will never be able to explain it or prove it. It will be an experience that we will never forget, that will change us, and that will fill us with awe.
Bring the twinkling of your light into our midst. Teach us to love each other and to wait for you to lead us.
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