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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Call for Principled Pluralism as We Begin This Election Year

As we are about to enter into an election year, I wanted to introduce a topic that could serve the coming months of political discourse well: “Principled Pluralism.” 

Abraham Kuyper was a renowned 19th century theologian who later served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands (1901 to 1905). He was a relentless advocate of K-12 Christian education who made an enduring case for publicly funded faith-based schools. One hundred years later, his efforts still serve as a model for school of choice and the value of parochial schools.

Though a devout Christian himself with no desire to water down the singular call of the Gospel of Christ, he fully understood that his biblical worldview could not be politically imposed upon the world, but he also believed that the absolute separation of church and state is neither healthy nor necessary in a pluralistic constitutional republic. Kuiper knew it was not the role of government to impose or inhibit one religion as part of a nation’s identity.  

With that in mind, Kuiper used the two words “principled pluralism” together like a blacksmith’s tongs to forge a common sense approach to governance in a setting where religious and secular worldviews were often at odds.His approach was not ecumentical (i.e."all roads lead to God so lets just get along"), but he understood that his own deeply held religious beliefs were no more "protected" than beliefs he considered to be in error.

It is important to remember that respecting another’s right to hold an opinion or belief does not require agreeing with it. In other words, it should be alright to agree to disagree agreeably, True pluralism does not mandate the silence of opposing views. 

The current one-sided activism playing out on many college campuses, however, is a blend of entitlement and anarchy, demanding “safe space” from “microaggressions” while chanting about which group matters more than the other. This drama of distinction unfolds in a culture otherwise eager to neutralize all differences by redefining terms (e.g. gender, conception, life, citizenship, marriage, etc.).

Ironically, in the name of “tolerance,” dissenting thoughts are repelled when they encounter a supposedly open mind. Dare to disagree with the latest change in public opinion and you may be called a fascist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, transphobe,.. fill-in-the-blank-ophobe. [As if disagreeing with something equates fearing it. By that test, non-Christians could be called Christophobes.] The list of epithets hurled in the name of tolerance is surprisingly long

Public policy driven by outcry rather than principle can lead to “might makes right” and the misguided  notion of  “majority rules,” both of which our founding fathers protected against as they drafted the U.S. Constitution. From experience, the founders knew that laws based upon pendulum swings of power rather than on an enduring set of principles ultimately lead to various forms of tyranny.

As we have seen this past yearpluralism without principle leads to selective tolerance from a growing secular majority at the cost of fair treatment for those who hold opposing convictions or beliefs.

"Perhaps Kuyper's greatest significance for our own religiously and culturally fractured world is the way he proposed for religious believers to bring the full weight of their convictions into public life while fully respecting the rights of others in a pluralistic society under a constitutional government." [Jim Bratt, Kuyper biographer and professor at Calvin College]

Parity not privilege is a general paraphrase of the Golden Rule. Rather than imposing change on others against their will (e.g. through executive orders, Sharia Law, SCOTUS, or caliphates), the Golden Rule would suggest to “Govern when you are in control as you wish to be governed when you are not.” As we begin an election year, this seems like a reasonable expectation to have for elected or appointed officials.

Click here for an article on Kuyperian pluralism from the Cardus publication Comment.

Click here for the context of the following quotation by David Koyzis:

"In [Kuyper's] own life, he exemplified the effort to live out the lordship of Christ in every area of endeavor, including politics.

Of course, politics in the real world is a matter of trying peacefully to conciliate diversity, as the late British political scientist, Sir Bernard Crick, aptly expressed it. It requires the tolerance of “different truths,” or, more accurately, different claims to the truth. How then can Christians, whose scriptures so frequently ring with the phrase, “thus says the Lord,” be expected to live with unbelievers who deny God’s sovereignty to begin with? How can we live out an all-encompassing commitment to God’s kingdom in such a diverse society and polity? Would not Kuyper and his followers be compelled to work for the establishment of some sort of theocracy? ...

But this was not Kuyper’s approach. During his political career, Kuyper worked, not to turn the Netherlands into a godly commonwealth, but more modestly to secure a place in the public square for his Reformed Christian (Gereformeerd) supporters in the face of the secularizing ideologies spawned by the French Revolution....

In North America, ... Kuyper’s legacy amongst evangelical Christians... comes not a moment too soon. In many respects our North American polities are increasingly taking on the divided character of European countries in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, albeit without (yet) a comparable level of political instability...."

Click here to read of the legal case involving InterVarsity Christian Fellowship groups on public college campuses being accused or "religious discrimination" for requiring organizational officers to be Christians.

The following discussion aired after the first drafts of this article were written. It does not mention Kuiper or principled pluralism, but it does touch upon our discussion:

Click here  to see an ironic lack of parity in an email exchange about a state-approved workshop instructing Michigan K-12 teacher to include lessons on "Islam The Straight Path" in their classrooms.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Runaway Reindeer

There was once a town in Michigan where it was Christmas all year ‘round. Families came there from far and wide with thoughts of snow and silent nights even in the summertime. Christmas Town was magic. Old shoppers felt young; young parents felt wise; and small children felt safe and brave (as we shall see).
In Christmas Town things turned especially special in December, when Santa himself arranged to have all eight of his reindeer there for children to see. In a special barn behind a large ornament factory, each reindeer had his very own stall with his name etched into a barn-wood board on the gate: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Donner, Cupid, Comet, and Blitzen.  Like many other guests to the barn, you may be wondering, “Where was Rudolph?”
Well, Rudolph was no ordinary reindeer. He never came to Christmas Town but stayed behind at the North Pole resting up for Christmas Eve. Being the lead reindeer was not only an honor, it was the most tiring position of all. The reindeer pulling in the front always had a harder task than those closest to the sled. Santa rotated the other pairs of reindeer at stops along the way around the world.
Dasher and Dancer began in the front harness but typically moved to the back of the team in Denmark; Prancer and Vixen had “front duty” from Prague to Venice (depending on the headwind); Donner and Cupid rotated to the front for the flight from Djibouti to China; and Comet and Cupid preferred to lead from Tasmania to Hawaii. Few people know this, but if time allows, all of the reindeer and Santa himself take a half-hour break in Hawaii where they eat pineapples for extra energy. From there, the rotation begins all over again through the night until the last gift is delivered and Santa’s sleigh is empty.
But poor Rudolph never gets to rotate. He is always in the very front where his shiny red nose is most needed. (Otherwise, he would only light up the other reindeer’s rear ends, and what good is that?) 
It takes extra stamina to lead the other eight, and because of that, Rudolph gets an extra pineapple in Hawaii from Santa himself. More important to our story, this is the reason why Rudolph gets to rest all through December when the other eight reindeer make an appearance at Christmas Town.
Millions of people have seen the reindeer there through the years, but the reindeer do not remember them all by name… that is… except for two. Two children, a girl and boy, they will never forget. Their names were Nora and Charlie. They were brother and sister, and at first, they were just two faces in a long line of parents and children waiting to see the reindeer in the barn behind the ornament factory.
“Are we almost there?” Charlie moaned. He was wearing his blue rubber boots, and sometimes after a long day his feet felt so heavy he could only shuffle them along the ground without picking them up.
“We’re almost there,” said Nora, patting him on the shoulder. “I can see Dasher’s antlers between the grown-up’s hats.
There were some grown-ups in the line with the children, but Nora and Charlie’s parents were off buying special presents in a gigantic toy warehouse next door, and because Santa’s elves kept a close watch, the children felt safe and brave in Christmas Town. Any place else, it would be  odd to see a five-year-old girl standing with her three-year-old brother alone in a long line of strangers, but here the two of them thought only of the reindeer which could now be seen through the opening and closing gaps in the people ahead.
The barn was cold and smelled of moist hay and the steaming breath that shot from the nostrils of the reindeer who greeted each passing guest with a nod of their antlers and a jingle of the bell on their heavy leather collar.  This collar was not always worn, but whenever guests were allowed in the barn, the elves in charge of the reindeer needed a way to keep the reindeer from floating away with excitement.
You see, reindeer do not fly like birds because they have no wings. They leap with the excitement that comes only with Christmas, and then they float higher and higher with each leap. Once in the air the mere motion of their leaping legs sends them galloping through the air. Here is a secret very few people know: reindeer can only fly great distances when they are harnessed together with the heavy load of Santa’s sleigh behind them.
Without the sleigh, they can only fly a yard or so at a time—not a “yard stick yard” but a yard like from one side of your front yard to the other. It’s a very impressive leap, but nothing like flying around the world.  Even so, the elves knew Santa would not want his reindeer leaping over the heads of the barn guests. That could get messy and dangerous. Such a thing had never happened, but that is why each reindeer’s collar was tied to the lowest rail of his stall.
There was a sign near the stalls that explained all of this, and Nora took the time to sound out the words, explaining each sentence to Charlie as she read.
“Wow! I didn’t know that, Nora,” he said, eyes wide.
“That’s why they have to wear collars here in Christmas Town,” she repeated with a nod, but Charlie didn’t hear her. He was lost in a smile and a far-away look as visions of reindeer boinking back and forth danced in his head..
“Coooool…” he sighed, but Nora thought he was simply commenting on her brief oral report.
The line kept moving on: Frist Dasher, then Dancer, now Prancer, and Vixen; on Donner, on Cupid, on Comet, and Blitz… but wait. Before they got to Blitzen, something happened. Just what no one knows for sure. Some people say that the large boy ahead of them—Nora thought he looked like a fifth-grader—had somehow unhooked Blitzen’s collar. Other’s said that Blitzen’s elf was distracted by his girlfriend elf (who was in charge of Comet), and he never got the buckle pin in the hole of the leather. So with each nod of his antlers to the passing guests, Blitzen’s collar got looser and looser until, just before Nora and Charlie stepped up to his stall, it fell to the ground.  
The jingle of the jingle bell at Blitzen’s feet startled him, and he jumped backward hitting the rail behind him. This frightened him even more, and he leapt forward over his manger and above Nora and Charlie’s heads.
“Coooool…” laughed Charlie.
Not cool” said Nora, ducking her head. “The sign said he’s not supposed to do that, and now he’s flying right out the barn door.” 

The rest of the people in the barn saw none of this. Nora grabbed Charlie’s hand and pulled him to the open barn door.  By then, Blitzen was out in the middle of a large meadow in front of a line of bare winter trees.  The elf in charge of Blitzen came running up beside them.
“Oh, dear! What shall we do?” He shrieked in a squeaky elf voice. “I’m too small to catch him alone, and Santa is at the front of the Toy warehouse double-checking his Christmas lists. He’s checked it once but now he’s checking it twice. You keep an eye on Blitzen while I run to get him.”
“We will, but please hurry,” said Nora nervously. She was so nervous that her voice squeaked a little bit. The elf stopped in his tracks and turned back at her.
“Are you makin’ fun of my voice?” He asked.
“No. I’m just nervous,” she said with a frightened grin. “Please hurry.”
Just then, Charlie saw a bushel of carrots by the barn door. These carrots were kept as treats for the reindeer after the guests left the barn. Nora had read about it on the sign.
Charlie grabbed a carrot and said, “Follow me, Nora.”
“We shouldn’t …” Nora began, but before she could finish the thought with “…… shouldn’t go out there,” she suddenly felt safe and brave as only children in Christmas Town can feel, and she followed closely behind Charlie who walked closer and closer to Blitzen.
Steam came from the reindeer’s nostrils, and Charlie could feel the warm air against his face. It smelled surprisingly sweet like hot cocoa.
“I have a carrot for you Mr. Reindeer,” Charlie whispered.
Nora whispered in his ear, “Try calling him Blitzen.”  She stood closely behind Charlie, and helped steady his hand.
“Hi, Blitzen. My name is Charlie and this is my sister Nora. We came all the way to Christmas Town just to see you and the other reindeer. If you follow me to the barn, I’ll give you a bite of this carrot.”
Blitzen nodded his antlers and snorted more steam as he stepped forward to take a bite of the carrot.
“That a boy,” said Charlie with a big smile. And he and Nora began walking the huge reindeer back to the barn with each bite. By the time the thee of them stepped back into the barn door, Blitzen nibbled the last nub of carrot from Charlie’s open palm.
“Well, Ho Ho Ho…” whispered a deep voice behind them. It was Santa speaking far more softly behind the astonishment of his wondering eyes. “That’s right, Blitzen. Follow Charlie and Nora. I’ll get the gate.”
Nora and Charlie looked at each other and whispered together, “How did he know our names?”
“How did I know your names? Ho Ho Ho,” Santa laughed, in spite of himself. “I was just double-checking the list before I came. I saw your names right there.”
“Which list?” Charlie asked, “Naughty or nice?”
He gave them a wink of his eye and a nod of his head, and they knew in a moment they had nothing to dread.
Santa closed the gate behind Blitzen and fastened the collar around his thick neck just as Nora and Charlie’s parents made their way through the crowd.  Charlie’s mother picked him up in her arms.
“I hear you’ve become a reindeer wrangler!” she said.
“He was so brave, but I helped, too!” said Nora, and her father picked her up with a twirl.
“You were both very brave,” he said.
“Very brave, indeed,” Santa agreed.
A lady from the crowd stepped forward holding out her I-phone. “I took a picture of it. If you like, I’ll send it to you. It’s a keeper!”
“Thank you. We’d like that,” they said. “We’ll share it with their grandparents.”
Everyone in the crowd began asking her to send it to them, too. (Soon the picture went viral all over the internet. To this day, it remains a very popular picture at Christmas time.)
Santa raised his hand for silence. “I don’t know what we would have done if you had not stopped Blitzen,” he said with a grateful smile. “And now if you don’t mind, these reindeer and I have a big trip of head of us. It’s time for us to close up the barn and head up to the North Pole. Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve. We’ll be busy all night.”
He walked the crowd to the front doors of the barn and turned to Nora and Charlie with a twinkle in his eye, “Thanks for keeping my team together. It takes all of us to get the job done. Oh…and thanks in advance for the cookies and milk. Yours are always just a little tastier than the others.”
“It’s my Mom’s recipe, but I helped frost them.” Nora said proudly.
“Me, too,” Charlie added. 
The elves slowly closed the doors, but Nora and Charlie heard Santa say as he slipped out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
Two days later, on Christmas morn, after all of the giftwrap was scattered and torn, Charlie and Nora checked their stockings with care and laughed when they each found a carrot in there.
© Tom Kapanka, December 31, 2015 

[Note: A day or two before New Year's Eve 2015, my daughter Emily gave us the picture above. There is another story behind the picture, and I can say that Nora and Charlie were actually standing in a meadow in Michigan with a carrot when it was taken. Other than that, let's just say there was some "magic" involved. The picture made me smile each time I looked at it because it begs for a story of explanation. So on New Year's Eve morning I jotted down the tale above, and Julie read it to my grandchildren and other guests as we waited to bring in the New Year. It was post-dated to December 24 because it is a Christmas story based on the personalities of my grandkids and on personal recollections of the live reindeer displays (once popular at places like FrankenmuthMichigan). I also placed it on that date because there are subtle echos of ""'Twas the Night before Christmas" in some of the lines. ]

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

An Eagle's Eye View from Above at CCS

Two years ago, I posted some thoughts about soaring.  I read that post again today. It is a very good reminder of the hard work involved in rising up. Double-click that underlined link to read the full article yourself. Here is just a short portion:

"The promise that our strength can be renewed implies that it can also be depleted...Some may ask, "What about the promise in the second part of the verse that says, 'They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Doesn’t that mean that we will never get tired while serving the Lord?"  I don’t think so. Even well-trained  runners are exhausted after “pressing on toward the mark.” (Philippians 3:13-15)  I don’t think the word weary implies physical exhaustion as much as complete mental or emotional fatigue. In other words, being weary is not being tired from what you’re doing—it is being tired of what you’re doing. Weary is a dangerous place to be; it is dark and pathless valley cluttered with quit and overshadowed by the bad decisions of centuries past.

I can assure you that the CCS team is not weary. Even so, it's good to pause... to close our eyes and visualize, May this uplifting video enlighten our perspective with a view from above. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

I Have a Thing about Coffee Mugs...

I have a thing about coffee mugs. They have to feel right in my hand. How the mug’s ear forms in my grip is as important as how it looks.

I was recently in a gift store in Petoskey, Michigan. The sign on the door said: “All products made in Michigan,” and that fact alone drew me inside. A little bell mounted on the old wooden door rang as I opened it.  Along the wall to my left was a wide selection of artisan mugs and plates. Entire shelves were stocked with coordinated pieces that could be purchased individually or as sets. Each mug was generally the same design but being hand-made they varied slightly in shape, grip, and glazing. No two were alike.

I began putting each mug in my grasp as if holding a cup of coffee, working my way from the front to the back of the long shelf. I did not notice that the young man behind the counter was watching. After a few minutes, he said, “Can I help you find what you’re looking for?”

The query sounded more like a bewildered comment than a question. From his perspective, it must have looked as if I were searching for a lost coin under each mug in his entire inventory.

“No, thank you. I’m just testing the feel of these mugs. They’re each a little different, but I think I have found the one I want.”

I had actually only narrowed the choice down between two mugs. They both felt equally “right,” and now it was a question of appearance.

The coloration was the same, but the glaze created different drips and lines and horizons forever fused to the fired clay. Having made some things of clay myself in high school, I knew enough about the process to appreciate each step. It is the final step, when the glaze meets the fire of the kiln, that the artist’s intentions take on their final form. It is after the final cooling, that even the hands and eyes that made the thing look at it with wonder.

The difference between amateur artists and professionals is the latter have the ability to part with their best work in exchange for a livable income. There on the shelf before me were countless hours of countless days beautifully displayed in stoneware, but I had to choose between the two mugs that felt equally right in my hand. Which one would most engage the eye while transferring the heat of fresh-brewed coffee to the hand? Which would most capture my imagination as the smell provided a prelude to my first sip?

Stepping from behind the counter, the young man said again, “Are you sure, I can’t help you?”

“I’m just about done…” I said, staring intently at the two mugs like Robert Frost contemplating two divergent roads in a yellow wood. Then with equal uncertainty, I chose the mug “less traveled by” and stepped up to the counter with a sheepish smile.

“Are you sure?” The young man said.

“I think so….“

"It’s a big decision,” he said with a slight smile.

Was he mocking me? Holding back a laugh as his subtle sarcasm, I said, “About every five years I get a mug to mark a special occasion, and as you can see, I make way too big a deal of it.  I have this thing about mugs. They have to feel right in my hand. Sounds crazy, but there really is a method to my madness.”

“Oh, I don’t think you’re crazy. I could tell the wheels were turning. It was kind of fun to watch you pick a winner. So what’s the occasion?”

“Pick a winner?” I thought. Not even in classroom of middle-schoolers would  Frost’s two roads be equated to “picking a winner” as if pulling rubber ducks from the table-top pond. For one thing, Frost had no spectators watching him at the fork in the road. If he had, his poem may have illustrated the fine line between deliberation and delirium.

“So what’s the occasion?” the clerk asked again.

 “Occasion?” I mumbled.  

“Yes, the occasion for buying the mug.”

“Oh, that… Yes. It’s our 35th Anniversary. It was actually last week, but we couldn’t come until today. My wife is at the shop next door. We’re staying at a Bed and Breakfast in Charlevoix, and …”

“Well, congratulations,” he said as if he feared further details. “I hope you enjoy the mug. A lady in Ann Arbor makes these for us.”

He carefully rolled the mug in paper, nestled it into a paper bag, and put the twine handles in my clasp with a smile. “Come again,” he said.

“Next time I'm here, I will. You have a nice shop.” I replied.

As I walked to the exit, I thought, “Ann Arbor. That’s cool,” and my mind turned for a moment to the town of maze and blue. Tugging on the wooden door, the same little bell chimed again, and there on the sidewalk stood my charming wife.

"Find anything you like?" She asked.

"A coffee mug," I smiled.

She returned the smile and took my hand, "Been another five years has it?"

This is clearly not the mug I purchased last week, but we are camping as I write this post, and the new mug is at home. This one stays in our camper. It is not hand-made, but it has great "heft" and feels good in my hand. I purchased it 15 years ago in Colorado, and it brings back very special memories. If time allows, I'll explain in a future post. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tender to the Ground (Reposted from 2006)

I was helping my daughter proof-read a paper she had written for a college literature class. It was fun because I don't often get to talk about the writing process with my own family members, and I think sometimes they forget that in a former life I taught Literature, etc. and the old addage is true: you never truly learn a subject until you have taught it to others. One principle of writing and studying poetry that I used to stress with students is that "poems are lines that contain poetry." That may sound self-evident, but allow me to explain.

 Coleridge's simple definition of poety was "the best words in the best order." Many modern poets
would embrace a more pedestrian definition, but Coleridge's thought is not too far from Korg's 1966 book, The Force of Few Words.  Even so, most poems, if taken as a whole, miss the superlative mark Coleridge set. They are not pure poetry from start to finish. Even if each line contains discernable poetic elements, most of the rhythm and flow and meaning of millions of attempts to "write a poem" fall short of truly distilled poetry of "the best words are in best order." 

Take this poem I wrote in 1995. It was written from a broken grieving heart, and the sentiment is genuine, but I was somehow bound by sing-songy lines of good intention. Yet, there is a nugget of poetry to be found among the elements of otherwise poetic effort. Sometimes a single line can serve as a hook to hang a hat on and make something worth knowing and quoting.

First some background:
My father died in April 1995, now twenty years ago. My wife, two daughters and I lived in Iowa at the time and traveled 570 miles east to Michigan for the funeral. Some Iowa friends were watching our little Yorkshire terrier, Corky. They lived only two streets from our Iowa home and one night the little fellow ran off and went missing 'til the next day when they found him trembling at the back door of our house. It happened three times while we were gone. (We had never left him behind for any other trip, and he could simply not believe that we were not at home.)

He was never the same after that week without us. He had literally never left our yard in eight years, but he now knew what was beyond. In the weeks to follow, whenever we let Corky outside (as we had done without incident for eight years),  he wander off into broader and broader circles of exploration. One night in May he disappeared, and the next morning we received a phone call from a lady who said his body was lying on her lawn near the street in front of her house. I've written about it elsewhere at POI, but my point here is that watching my daughter Kim work through the sadness of that experience just a few weeks after I had laid my father to rest, prompted these lines. Oh, they are sincere and there is rhyme and rhythm throughout, but the lines that come closest to "poetry" are these at the end:

"...in time, all those who watch and wait
...are tender to the ground."

The three words "watch and wait" may be a subconscious hat-tip to Milton's "stand and wait" in "On His Blindness." Twenty years later, I used the same "watch and wait" in this year's Easter poem, "Crossing the Path." (previous post). 

Not until I scribbled those final two lines did I see the root-word relationship between being tender and tending something... like tending a garden. The word "tender" implies affection, as in "tender loving care" and "tender mercies." Tender also implies lingering pain. When we walk on a sprained ankle, we may say, "It's still a little tender," meaning the hurt is still there even as it heals. 

To this day, 20 years later, "tender to the ground" seem to be the best words in the best order to describe how we the living feel while visiting to watch and wait and whisper as we preen a loved-one's grave.

Tender to the Ground

There’s a patch of ground beside the path
...that runs between the trees,
...and yesterday my little girl
...was there down on her knees.
Her hands held clumps of lilac,
...both lavender and white,
...and she carefully arranged them
...on the stones that marked the site.
The day before, at twilight,
...we laid our dog to rest.
She tried to whisper something
...but fell sobbing on my chest.
Yet on this second visit
...no tear had traced her face,
...and her eyes showed calm contentment
...for having touched the place.

There’s a plot of earth just off the road
...that runs down to the shore
...where one by one, we’ll all be drawn
...by some endearing chore.
We may kneel to leave a single rose
...or brush back autumn leaves,
...and we’ll ask how hands find comfort
...so near a heart that grieves.
But the same heart will remind us:
...such acts aren’t for the dead—
...they are "rather for us" the living,
...as Lincoln aptly said.

Whether seventy or seven,
...wherever love is found,
...in time, all those who watch and wait
...are tender to the ground.
© Copyright 1995, Tom Kapanka, Patterns of Ink

A few weeks after my father's funeral, our little family dog was killed and buried at the back of our property. Lakeside Cemetery, where my father (and now my mother) and many other relatives are laid to rest, is on the shore of Lake Huron in my home town of Port Huron.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Crossing the Path

Just beyond the open gate
began a straight and narrow path
that prompted me to watch and wait
and whisper to myself: “He that hath
the Son hath life, and he that hath not…”
Thinking back, I saw the leper’s limb,
the blind man’s eyes, the empty cot
of one who walked because of Him.
I saw a desperate woman in the crowd
who having merely touched His hem
was healed and trembling cried aloud.
His perception and power amazed them
there as did his scribbling in the sand
the day the stones dropped to the ground.
Then left alone, His outstretched hand
raised the woman to her feet and found
her uncondemned to go and sin no more.
Divine encounters all, cloaked in interruption
to Him who said, “Behold, I stand at the door
and knock,” yet He enters at His will so corruption,
sin, death and disease are met not with wrath
but mercy that, by faith, removes the dross
in that moment when we cross the path
that led Him…and leads us… to the cross.
© 3-22-15 Tom Kapanka

Back when I was writing more regularly, I tried to provide a special post or poem each Easter with embedded links (at the underlined words) that give context to each image.

These thoughts were prompted by a sermon and a note from a friend who reminded me that God always has a purpose for making paths cross. I have said phrases like "crossed my path" all my life. It typically means that the encounter was happenstance or unplanned. But when I saw the phrase in my friend's note, I saw the double meaning of "cross," and how Christ changed the lives of those who crossed his path (which was in fact a path that led ultimately to the cross).

There are many other illustrations of this truth. To name just a few more: think of how Jesus treated the CenturionMary and Martha, and tax collectors who crossed his path. From a human perspective, nearly all of these divine encounters with Jesus were "interruptions." This does not mean they were not part of the plan or that they caused our Lord to stray from His path or lose focus, for indeed, his path--his purpose--was to encounter people and change their lives. It happened again and again during His ministry and happens still today.

If your job or calling includes dealing with "people interruptions" that come through your door, how do you view those opportunities to reflect Christ? May these thoughts be a reminder to follow Christ's example regarding those who cross our path, even if they do not share our perspective (or even our best interest).

I heard a pastor say recently that 40% of our Lord's recorded ministry was initiated by an "interruption." In the case of Matthew, the tax collector, Jesus initiated the interruption by simply saying "follow me" as he passed.

Today He asks the same of all who claim to have crossed His path.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Until a Limb

I followed through a pathless wood
too close perhaps
to see the forest for the trees
or miss the slaps
of thoughtless branches in my face
let go it seemed
with little care of consequence
and no esteemed
perception that others followed
close behind him.
Branch after bending branch we trod
until a limb
snapped back so hard it lashed my eyes.
Half-blinded then
I saw anew the need for space,
but walked again,
this time seeing forest and trees
at my own pace
as stings gave way to speckled sun
upon my face.

Tom Kapanka
April 2, 2011

Years ago I began experimenting with structured verse in a pattern of 8-syllable lines followed by 4 syllables in the next line. In this case I only rhymed the shorter lines in pairs. These lines were written in April, 2011, but I did not post it at POI until April 13, 2012. It is based in part on the experience many have had while walking behind someone in a dense woods... especially if they are following a person who insists his chosen course is the only way and those who follow must keep close rank. But when the one in front keeps bending branches to save his own face only to let them slap the face behind him, the hurtful pattern should be kindly pointed out so long as it continues. If the concerns fall on deaf ears, however, and the wrecklessness of the one in front continues, even the most forgiving scouts may be wise to choose a parallel path rather than be blamed for the endless quarreling over branches. The same sun will light both paths, and in time, the Son will make all things clear.  Romans 12:17-21

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Proposal: 35 Years Ago This New Year's Eve

Thirty-five years ago This New Year's Eve, Julie and I sat in this exact same spot in this exact same room facing the exact same picture window that looks out on the exact same trees in the exact same pasture.

The trees outside the window have grown. The horses in the pasture have changed. The curtains on the widow no longer complement the crushed orange velvet couch that sat there through the Seventies. The couch, thank Heaven, was replaced, and the banister in the background is now a warm wood where cold wroght iron was on that night in 1980. But the couple sitting there on the far left cushion of the  couch that replaced the crushed velvet is the same, or should I say, they are the same two people.... if it is possible for people to be the same after thirty-five years.

That's how long it's been. Exactly thirty-five years this New Year's Eve. Late that night, after the church "Watchnight Service," we came back to Julie's house, and at about 1:00 AM, I proposed to Julie in the front room. I've written about it before here at POI.

There is another change in that living room in Waverly, Kansas. This change has also been true for nearly thirth-five years. On the wall to the right of the picture  window is a large framed portrait. It's a beautiful bride-to-be in her wedding dress.  I took this snapshot of it with my phone, and my reflection in the frosted glass created a soft glow around her.

The first picture was taken last week in Kansas. I plan to add to this post this evening....

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