Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Rock Won't Move

In the city of Waterloo, Iowa, just two blocks from the Christian school where I served for 18 years, rests the large granite boulder seen in this picture.

It has been a point of interest in Waterloo since the first dirt road went past it more than 150 years ago. Over the decades, the expanding town grew around that rock. When the dirt roads became paved in the 20th Century, engineers tried to remove the rock, but they discovered that there is more of it below the surface than what is seen above. Its actual dimensions are unknown, but the exposed portion alone would weigh well over 100 tons.

When the two lane road became four lanes, a portion of the bolder was blasted away to create legal distance from the curb. Since that time the city engineers have left the rock alone. Rising as it does from Iowa’s soft loam with no other natural granite features in the area, it has become a landmark, an erratic remnant from a time much closer to creation and the climate changes that followed the Great Flood. The boulder at the corner of West 4th Street and Ridgeway Avenue, will be there when all around it fades away. The rock won’t move.

One of the most powerful Biblical images of our steadfast God is that of a rock—not a small stone—but an immense and immovable rock even greater than I have described.

I Samuel 2:2 says, “… there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” And II Samuel 22:47 adds, “…blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation.” Deuteronomy 32:31 confirms this exclusive attribute: “For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.”

The God as our Rock metaphor is made even more vivid when put to music. It is echoed more than 20 times throughout the Book of Psalms: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.” Psalm 62:6

More than 2,000 years later, the image of God our Rock continues to find its way into the songs of believers. “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the Rock” (Crosby, 1890) comes from Exodus 33:22. “Oh, Jesus is the Rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm” gives voice to Isaiah 32:2, put to music in 1885. And children have been singing “Jesus is the Rock of my salvation” for decades.
One of the newest worship songs using the God as our Rock image was written by a young worship leader named Tyler Miller and his fellow members of VerticalChurch Band. It’s one of those songs that incorporates a refrain from an old hymn: “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” which was first published in 1836. I appreciate it when new songwriters “back-stitch” with lyrical threads to reinforce the generational fabric of our faith and pay homage to the gifts of saints who have gone before us. Here is the song: 

When the ground beneath my feet gives way
And I hear the sound of crashing waves
All my world is washing out to sea
I'm hidden safe in the God who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of the truth
That You are holding tighter still to me

The Rock won't move and His word is strong
The Rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The Rock won't move and His word is strong
The Rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The Rock of our Salvation

My hope is in the promise of Your blood
My support within the raging flood
Even in the tempest, I can sing
I'm hidden safe in the God who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of Your truth
That You are holding tighter still to me

Woah, woah
Woah, the Rock of our salvation

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
The Rock won't move, the Rock won't move
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest in His unchanging grace
The Rock won't move, the Rock won't move

Enclosed in this month's Newsletter mailed out to 600 homes is a small booklet i wrote called: “Roots around Rock: Teaching toward Ideals in a Less-than Ideal World.” Copies are also available in the CCS office.

Last month I wrote some thoughts about roots; this month I wanted to focus on The Rock.
The closing pages of that booklet summarize some thoughts about Biblical ideals by saying, “Ideals…are not just lofty words or feel-good maxims. They are not stepping stones conveniently placed along some garden walk.”

Stepping stones are put in place by man to help him walk his self-made path. This is not true of Biblical ideals which, like their source, “are immovable boulders deep in the ground, exposed over time in the grip of roots…and forever bound through the ages. They line the rugged, narrow path from where we are to where we know we ought to be…”

On the cover of that booklet are pictures of massive boulders held fast in the grip of roots of a towering tree above, but the words of the song above describe a paradox which must be affirmed: While it is true that we strive to be rooted in and holding fast to the Truth, it is more importantly true that the Rock is holding tighter still to us.

What a humbling and reassuring thought that is in this season set aside for praise.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tom Kapanka 

Friday, November 15, 2013

I was in second grade when President Kennedy was killed

Because this coming Friday, November 22, 2013, is the exact 50-year anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, you may be seeing many special programming or articles in the media. So I thought I'd post this blank-verse piece I wrote several years ago.

Just as the attack on Pearl Harbor was to my parents, and as the events of 9-11-2001 are to this generation, the day President Kennedy was killed is a moment frozen in the minds of many Baby Boomers who may now be age 55 or older.

"Wooden Box" was an attempt to recall how it felt as a second grader at Huron Park Elementary School in Roseville, Michigan, to be flying from a swing at recess one minute and then shrouded in silence the next. The title reflects the wooden speaker on the wall from which we heard the news, the wooden desks that held our silent heads, and the wooden casket we later saw on a black-and-white screens of the wooden consoles of televisions from that day. May we as parents and teachers be ever aware of the indelible impressions our children form during times of crisis or loss.    

Wooden Box

The shrill chirp of a whistle
drew us running to our lines,
but just as it should blow again
the recess lady stepped inside,
and left us standing
in November's cold.
No second whistle blew.
Instead, a hand beckoned
from the doorway
and we entered single file.

Outside each classroom
the teachers' faces were
more sullen than stern.
“Heads on your desks,”
mine whispered as we passed.

"Heads on your desks"
was never harsh;
as always after recess
it was her way of saying,
"Hang up your wraps
(as teachers back then called our coats).
Don't talk. Settle down from play.
Let your feet forget their running.
Let your hands let go
the cold steel of monkey bars,
merry-go-round, and ladder slides.
Let your ears erase
the squeaking drone of swings
and chalky chants of hop-scotch girls
and jump-rope songs and
'teeter-totter, bread and butter'
echoing to the hill.
Let your face feel the smooth,
warm wood of your closed desk.
Listen to the quiet breath
inside your pillowed arms
and find a space inside your mind
to put the final lesson
of this day.

There was nothing unusual
about hearing her say
"Heads on your desks,"
but she'd never whispered it before.

From the wooden box
above the blackboard
came a strange and distant voice.
It was not the principal but was, in fact,
a radio broadcast piped-in to every room
from his office “P.A.”
Soon the somber words and phrases
seemed to settle in the room
so that even a second-grade boy
with his head on his desk
knew why his whole school was
suspended in silence
but for the wooden box:

Sniper. Dallas. Fatal shot.
The strange voice
left no room for doubt.
The president
of the United States,
John Fitzgerald Kennedy,
was dead.
a word I'd never heard before.

One by one, eyes rose
in puzzled understanding.
Our teacher paced the room
and touched the heads
of those with questions.
Her tender voice helped pass
the helpless pauses in the news.
And when a priest
(from where they rushed him)
came on the air to pray,
she walked up to her lesson book
and bowed her head.
We knew to do the same.

Closing my eyes I saw
she did not cross herself
as some around me did.
Hard against her upper lip
she pressed a crumpled hanky,
and her shoulders shook
a little with each breath.
Closing my eyes
I saw...

"Wooden Box" Part 2

Once day was done at school,
we walked in twos and threes and fours
to street corners where
“safety boys” with outstretched arms
kept us till the traffic cleared
then scurried us along.

It seemed at first
that not a thing had changed.
The sidewalks that we knew so well
still wound the same way home.
But that day more than most
mothers stood
waiting on front porches;
TVs flickered in the corner
as tables were set for supper;
and fathers coming home from work
sat a little longer in their cars,
trying to recall the things
dads are supposed to know.

In three days' time,,
we saw the widow veiled in black
with two children at her side.
We watched them say good-bye
at the cathedral steps.
From there the horse-drawn caisson
bore the wooden box
to Arlington.
We winced at the three shots
of the soldiers' seven guns.
We watched them fold the flag.
We heard the broken note of taps
and the final nine that fill the sky,
"All is well, safely rest, God is nigh"
Then in farewell,
the lady laid her face,
as we had on our desks,
against the smooth, cold wood.

© Copyright 2007, TK, Patterns of Ink
John-John Kennedy salutes his father's casket as
it passed toward Arlington. November 25, 1963.