Sunday, October 30, 2011

October Comes to an End

Last month, my son-in-law and I were Kayaking the White River up in the Manistee National Forest. The leaves were just beginning to turn (as you can see in this picture).

Friends and I have been kayaking three times since. I wish I had taken pictures each week. The leaves were more beautiful each time.

Our Indian Summer has come and gone, but I have not yet put the kayaks in storage. I doubt we get to use them again, and yet I keep them within reach in hopes of one more time on the water before the wintry frosts are here to stay.

Tomorrow night our street will be full of trick-or-treaters, and October will come to an end one porch light at a time. It sometimes seems October's time of harvest marks the close of a year even more than does December. I always become a little more pensive as the leaves finally fall.
A few years ago, I put it this way... 

A Melancholy Splendor
.A melancholy splendor comes
when autumn chills,
and green begins to bleed,
and red and gold
and russet runs the hills...
when all that grows
is gathered in the fields
and orchard rows
to be busheled up,
pressed and poured out,
or left alone to seep
in the fallen tea of earth...
when gardens go to seed,
and bursting milkweed
begs for second birth
by letting go the withered pod
to haunt
the meadows
and the markers
on the old church lawn
where, but for lonely shadows,
all summer shade is gone
in the melancholy splendor
of the fall.



It's been a great start to the school year at Calvary Christian Schools. Contrary to trends in similar schools in our conference, CCS enrollment is up about 12% with the possibility of one or two additional students joining us in the weeks ahead.

To begin with... Our varsity volleyball team won the conference championship last week and begins the District Tournament this week. Our first ever National Honor Society Induction Ceremony is a week from Monday night.  Basketball seasons for fifth grade through high school will soon be underway. We welcome Coach Jim Warren to our staff and wish him and the boys well. Coach Brad Richards has already begun his inspiring pep talks with the girl's team. We have had a series of fine chapel messages on this year's theme "212 in 2012," which applies the boiling point of water to our spiritual lives.  Three alumni have already been chapel speakers since first quarter. It was great to hear how God is working in their lives. We're off to a great start, and the staff and student are very, very excited about this school year.
So let's not let the tone of this poem dampen our spirits like the rain we had this weekend. Lots of people have a touch of melancholy this time of year. I think it's because we enjoy the beauty of autumn but wrestle with the finality of all that began in spring. With winter comes a sort of "reset" for another year, and every month is a gift from God--I sense that this year more than ever. Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow! 
Note about the poem (click on the red words for deeper detail): Between the lines of " A Melancholy Splendor" are hints of the relationships between life and death, harvest and labor, the garden and weeds (nurture vs. nature), beauty and decay, and hope and despair in the fall (by playing on the word as both a season and a theological term). Since childhood, I've been fascinated by Milkweed. Its life cycle is very dramatic from beginning to end when it seems to "give up its ghosts" to the wind. Its scientific name comes from Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Milkweed also plays a "life and death" role in the life cycle of monarch butterflies.
Because I know we have several new readers this week, please read the first post of "To Begin With" by clicking on those three red words. That link will explain the title and purpose of this administrator's blog. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Last week,  in reference to some secular books about animals and nature, I mentioned that they superbly capture all the beauty and grandeur of creation while completely eliminating God's role in it all--wrapping all the wonder in millions and billions of years rather than the in Creator of Time. The secular worldview of the physical world and life itself is that it is as random as a box of BBs spilled.

The teachers at CCS cannot imagine teaching from that perspective. Our understanding of history, science, math and human nature as seen in literature and art, is consistent with what we know from scripture. Christian education need never compromise Truth to achieve academic excellence. It teaches fact as fact and theory as theory. It encourages curiosity, exploration, and discovery, and when explanations are truly beyond our finite minds, it encourages wonder rather than doubt.

Wonder Is

Wonder is
the meadow of the mind…
where God is kind enough
to let man find and walk
the common ground of
science and conscience—
the path between
what he thinks he is…
and what he knows he should be,
a place where quiet questions
are allowed
and praise of answers
is aloud.

© Copyright 2000, Tom Kapanka

Simply put,
thinking tests our grasp;
wondering tempts our reach.
We think about things
we know or hope to learn
and wonder about things
we may never understand.
While we assume
that knowledge trumps ignorance,
we dare not conclude
that certitude trumps wonder.
The opposite may be true.

Perhaps wondering is
our love language to God.
Perhaps wonder is our most
un-tampered-with form of worship.
Perhaps we never "know God" better
than when we are dizzied at
the thought of eternity
and the expanse of space;
when our hearts ache
with an unanswered "why?"
Perhaps when we feel
most lost, most orphaned, and when
His face is most inscrutable...
perhaps it's then

that crying, "Abba, Father"
most gladly bends
His holy ear.
© Copyright 2006, Tom Kapanka

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Life is Just...

This week we hosted a Scholastic Book Fair at school. As is always the case when a Christian school introduces secular materials, there are many, many titles that our volunteers pull from the sales racks and tables. I love books about God's creation--animals, plants, mountains, planets--they just amaze me. In fact, the older I get the more amazed I am by God's design all around us.

Unfortunately, secular books superbly capture all the beauty and grandeur of creation while completely eliminating God's role in it all--wrapping all the wonder in millions and billions of years rather than the in Creator of Time. This is true in most museums as well.

Several years ago in a museum, I saw a display of a giraffe (real but stuffed) drinking from a pond like the one in this picture. The plaque beside this huge specimen said something like, "Over millions of years the giraffe evolved a series of valves in his neck veins that allow him to put his head below his body without fainting each time he drinks. He also evolved the ability to swallow water up its steep eight-foot neck. Had these two evolutionary steps not occurred, this species of animal would have died millions of years ago." Likewise, this website says, "
"Luckily, giraffes have elastic blood vessels in their necks, this makes it possible for them to drink water from a stream, without fainting." Luckily? Really? Luckily? The giraffe is an amazing enough creature to look at let alone thinking of the design required to keep the blood from his head as it changes from highest point of his 18-foot frame to below his feet in split seconds.

It would almost be funny if it weren't so sad. No matter how obviously creation points to incomprehensible INTELLIGENT DESIGN, some folks would rather use this absurd scientific formula: RC + BY=UFB...Random chance plus billions of years equals unfathomable function and beauty.

This wrong choice is part of fallen human nature, because the alternative brings us face to face with the Creator of the universe. When the psalmist says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, I believe he's referring to the same "fear" that is the beginning of wisdom; it is a life-changing glimpse of the chasm between the creature and the Creator, a glance from a bowed head and grateful heart at the cost He paid to close that gap.

It is a kind of fear to be overwhelmed by awe (hence the word awful). So natural man rejects that proposition, rejects the voice of creation itself that turns our heads and hearts to God, and he instead puts his faith in RC + BY=UFB.  That is the thought behind this short piece I wrote four years ago.

Life is Just

So this is what
we're to believe:
That BANG! the box of BB's spilled
with no purpose, no design,
and nothing unfulfilled.
That WE ARE trumps I AM;
and PERCHANCE trumps what's WILLED.
We must put our trust
in rocks and dust since
life is just
a box of BB's spilled.
.© Copyright 2007, Tom Kapanka

To fully understand those lines we must read "between the lines." We must understand that "just" can be an adverb meaning "simply this and nothing more" or it can be an adjective meaning "morally and unwaveringly fair, good and true to promise." This adjective sense reflects an attribute of God; the adverb sense reflects human perspective, hence the line six contrast between "we are" (human proclamation) and "I AM" (God). "Willed" reflects God; "perchance" reflects life as if he does not exist. I can't imagine living life as if that were true, and though I do not know the answers to all of life's questions,  that is the essence of WONDER, which is the subject of next week's post here at To Begin With...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

There's Something About a Child's Voice

You know you're getting old when those classic TV specials come on, and you remember the first year they were aired. It's October and that means that some time soon, Charlie Brown's "Great Pumpkin" special will be on, which means about six weeks later "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Will be on.  I love the part where Linus recites the story of Christ's birth from memory (in King James English), and then at the end he turns to his friend and says, "And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

There is something about a child's voice telling a wonderful story. Enjoy the following recitation.

I am assuming that the three kids behind this little girl still have to get up and do their part of the program. They seem to be in another world--probably thinking, "Why didn't we save this kid for last. She's killin' us. Please just let us go back to our seats when she is done. I can't even remember how my story starts."