Tag Archives: Omaha

O Sovereign God, How Great Your Grace

Hymn1

Thirty years ago I made my first endeavor writing a hymn. It  was prompted by two significant events that God brought into my life in 1985. During that year I began serving God in the music ministry, and as a result, was introduced to the Doctrines of Grace.

On February 10, 1985 I was called as Music Minister at Raven Oaks Baptist Church in Omaha, Nebraska (the name of the church was later changed to Sovereign Grace Baptist Church). During the morning worship service on that day, Pastor Bill Lollar preached from Ephesians 2:8–9 as part of a series of messages on “The Greatest Verses in the Bible.” Bill’s preaching, along with a Wednesday night study through the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith that spring, challenged and deepened my understanding of God’s Word. Bill also encouraged me to read Loraine Boettner’s book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. After reading Boettner’s book in May and June, I wrote the hymn and shared it with the church on June 23, 1985. It was a celebration of the truths I was learning and a milestone that would set the course of my ministry.

Tornado Ride

This month marks a tragic anniversary for my home city. Forty years ago, on May 6, 1975, Omaha, Nebraska, was struck by a destructive tornado. I was thirteen then and remember the storm today, especially because it gave occasion for my first effort at writing a song.

On that day in 1975 I had arrived home from school when we heard the tornado sirens. My Mom was finishing the ironing and decided that she and my brother and I should take shelter. At the time she was not too concerned with the storm; she promptly put my brother and me to work cleaning when we reached the basement. My Dad, however, was out of town and worried about us. He knew we were in the tornado’s path, but he was not able to reach us.

We discovered later that the storm had been headed right for our house. We lived on Crown Pointe Ave, just up the hill from Orchard Park (I was attending Nathan Hale Junior High School). The tornado lifted near Benson Park and then went over our house. Though our house was spared, a large part of the city was devastated.

After seeing the damage done to the city, I imagined what it might have been like had the tornado hit our house like it did so many others. Imagination soon led to writing down the words of a song that I named Tornado Ride.

Below are the lyrics of the song and a recording that I made at the end of the summer of 1975 for my Dad (retrieved from an old cassette). It is the earliest recording I have of me singing and playing guitar.

Tornado Ride

Tornado Ride

Destruction and misery
Is all a tornado ever gave me

Tornados and twisters too
Kill and destroy are all they ever do
Tornados and twisters too
Better watch out when it’s coming through

Well, yesterday, everything was fine
And I was in school just wasting time
The bell finally rang and we got to go home
But we looked in the sky and black clouds did roam

Tornados and twisters too
Kill and destroy are all they ever do
Tornados and twisters too
Better watch out when it’s coming through

Well, I ran home as fast as I could
The weather was bad, not like it should
Sometimes it was hot and sometimes it was cold
In the sky a storm was clearly shown

When I got home, we ran down the stairs
Grabbed my radio, ‘cause we was mighty scared
Turned on the radio to hear what they’d say
But we ran and hid when it was coming our way

Tornados and twisters too
Kill and destroy are all they ever do
Tornados and twisters too
Better watch out when it’s coming through

Then all of a sudden we heard a loud sound
Looked up and saw the house come down
Then everything was calm, the tornado had passed
But we looked around and everything was smashed

Tornados and twisters too
Kill and destroy is all they ever do
Tornados and twisters too
Better watch out when it’s coming through

When I got up and saw all the rubble
Then I knew that we was really in trouble
So I looked around and started to shout
But I know it’s no use, so I climbed on out

Well, when I got out, the wind really blew
I needed help and didn’t know what to do
Along came the police and a rescue squad too
And the place was so wrecked it was hard to be true

Tornados and twisters too
Kill and destroy is all they ever do
Tornados and twisters too
Better watch out when it’s coming through

Well they took me to a motel and put me up for the night
And helped me all they could, ‘cause they knew I was in a fright
Then the next day we started to clean up
And find all we could in this terrible dump

Tornados and twisters too
Kill and destroy is all they ever do
Tornados and twisters too
Better watch out when it’s coming through

So my friends when it comes
You better go and hide
Unless you want to take a Tornado ride

Words and Music @1976 Kenneth Puls

I wrote the song early in May soon after the tornado struck and then shared it with my guitar teacher at one of my lessons. (I studied guitar with Leonard Mostek at his studio on Maple Street.) He liked it and entered me in an area talent show that summer called Show Wagon. I spent June of 1975 singing the song in several city parks in Omaha as part of Show Wagon.

Writing this song and having the opportunity to share with others was a defining moment for me. God used it in part to set the course of my life. Ten years after the tornado (after studying music theory and composition at the University of Nebraska at Omaha) I began what would be my life’s work, serving the church through music. For the past 30 years of ministry I have continued to write and arrange music, including many hymns and songs for worship. I am grateful for God’s protection in the storm in 1975, and grateful as well that through it I discovered an interest and joy in writing music. I have made it my aim to “praise the Lord as long as I live” (Psalm 146:2).

The cover art is from a charcoal drawing made by my daughter Anna Puls (2015). It includes the three TV towers at 72nd and Crown Pointe, not far from where I lived.

—Ken Puls