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Monday, September 02, 2019

The Height of Vanity

We live in a society which is slowly becoming more progressive and humanistic. Whether you call it postmodernism, or subjectivism or relativism, we continue to elevate the self-importance of human existence, accomplishment and thinking. Yet, we are mere specks in the broad expanse of the universe, mere blips in the endless march of time, and little more than a tiny footnote in the history of this beloved sphere. Whether created, transplanted, or the fortunate winners of an evolutionary lottery, we humans seem to have a constantly eroding layer of communal humility in light of our brief tenure here on earth. We have convinced ourselves that we are, at least figuratively, at the center of the universe … as if it was our destiny not only to exist, but to rule this planet. This haughty approach to our tenuous toehold on this little rock in the abyss of time and space should be a bit embarrassing. Because whatever your world view may be, we humans are just plain lucky to be here at all, let alone to be blessed with all that this world has to offer our species.

Now it would be disingenuous not to disclose that I’m one of those supposed narrow-minded, fundamentalist religious people who actually believe there is a God who had a hand brining about this world and continues not only to take an interest in our existence, but to actively interact with us lowly humans. How crazy is that? I would argue about as crazy as thinking some combination of warm, murky water and chemicals could swirl together into a functioning life form and eventually grow into us. Is the idea of God creating man from dirt really any more far-fetched than nothing creating man from dirt? Even the most basic bacteria, despite its simplicity, still contains a highly developed cell structure with a variety of interactive parts which are required for it to exist as a legitimate life form. No matter how much you cook or swirl chemicals together, or bombard them with cosmic rays, you just can’t get the kind of amino acids or building blocks of life to actually build life from what is lifeless; let alone the intricate, interdependent biological processes which support life as we know it. However, we simply refuse to accept that maybe, just maybe, a God might be involved. But never fear, scientists are still working around the clock all over the world with hopes of proving that God wasn’t necessary and, therefore, God doesn’t exist. To date, however, the theory that there is no God is still supported by less evidence than the theory that there is a God. If you like, we could just agree that the jury is still out. Or do you believe that your theory is absolutely and unequivocally right and that we shouldn’t even allow any conversation about a God or creation. If so, I believe that would make you a narrow-minded fundamentalist as well. Funny how that actually works both ways.

But all that being said, even if we merely evolved and boot-strapped ourselves to the top of the food pyramid, that would only make us the smartest animals so far. Or to quote Lilly Tomlin, “Even you win the rat race, you’re still just a rat.” We might be the best rats invented to date, but that would be all we’re qualified to brag about. In fact, based upon the theory of evolution, better rats will eventually evolve who may supplant us as rulers of the earth. Better rats who would out-compete us or out-produce us or out-think us, and who might even eat us. For to assume that we are the pinnacle and purpose of evolution, or that we have any kind of divine right to remain on the throne of nature indefinitely runs counter to the vaunted principals of natural selection. Any discussion of rights or purpose, or even meaning, would bring us back to some kind of truth that might point to a God or higher power. If we cling to evolution, then we have to toss art and science and philosophy and morality and music and literature out the window because our sole reason for existing is to pass the genetic baton onto the next, and hopefully better, generation so that they can do the same. That’s all there is. Evolution says that you’re only the king if you have bigger teeth or a bigger brain, and that another king will eventually eat you and take your place. If you don’t believe that, you may need to believe in God.

Either way, it’s still the height of vanity to assume that we’re actually something special … unless we were created in God’s image and that counted for something. But even then we’d be wise to remain humble in the face of eternity. Let’s keep these conversations going, because there’s much to talk about and discover.

The Height of Vanity
In this postmodern world we share
Every effort has been made
To remove the Lord from everything
We think and do each day
We’ve driven him from government
From schools and conversation
From intellectual gatherings
In every corner of our nation
We’ve blotted out the name of God
Wherever it was found
From every corner of our culture
Where once it did abound
For political correctness
For fairness and tolerance
We think that Jesus and the church
Must be hemmed in behind a fence
Of philosophical obscurity
Where subversive thoughts are sent
So that science may reign supreme
Throughout the social establishment
Then we wonder why there is unrest
Hate and violence and divorce
We ask what’s wrong with this world
And how things have taken course
But no wonder if we’re spiraling
Into darkness and decay
If the world is getting worse
Year by year and day by day
Can we remove the earth’s Creator
Who understands all things unknown
Can we dethrone the King of heaven
Who placed each continent and stone
Can we eradicate eternal truth
Or the source of morality
And make everything subjective
To the whim of humanity
It’s madness to assume that we
Could cast God from the world he made
And place ourselves upon the throne
Which was before creation laid
We simply can’t un-God this world
And it’s the height of vanity
For man to claim the crown of God
And supplant his majesty
         By Frank Carpenter ©

Friday, August 30, 2019

40th Spiritual Birthday

August 5, 2019
My 40th Spiritual Birthday

Dear Friends,
I’m writing to you because I’d like you to share an important milestone with me. Forty years ago today, on August 5th, 1979, I asked Jesus into my heart and gave my life to Him. It happened without much fanfare. Although it was a Sunday morning, I was lying in bed just thinking when, suddenly, it all made sense. That moment was the culmination of a three year journey of attending high school and college groups at Mariners Church, many conversations with caring and patient friends, reading the bible, God’s strategic placement of spiritual mentors in my life, a lot of people praying for me, and countless nights sitting on the cliffs above Big Corona just staring at the ocean. It was just a simple and probably awkward little prayer, but it altered the course of my life … quite literally forever.
So many of the blessings in my life have come as a result of the spiritual journey that began that day. Obviously, that decision was the pathway to reconciliation with God, forgiveness of my sin, and the promise of an eternity in heaven. As a bonus I also met Nancie through church and we truly believe that the faith we share is at the core of our nearly four decades of happiness and successful marriage. Chris and Cassie also both accepted the Lord through church and their faiths are still going strong today, along with being shared with believing spouses. That legacy of faith and hope is now something I'm praying for in the lives of our grandchildren, Aubree, Kasen, and Olivia. We have made many life-long friends through church and bible studies as well who are still walking this path with us, even decades later, and the community they represent continues to be a comfort, a joy, and a source of strength for us. We're looking forward to growing old (as slowly as possible) with all of those friends.

And while I certainly want to look back and celebrate the life and relationships faith has brought us thus far, I would be remiss not to look forward as well. We have a promise of eternal life, but that's not just something that happens when we die. For those who believe, eternal life has already begun. In short, it's right here and right now, and we need to live accordingly. Especially in our affluent southern California it's easy to become complacent and comfortable. But God wants so much more for us, and from us. In my heart of hearts, I feel like one of the reasons that God put me on this earth is to remind folks of that; to remind us that God has uniquely gifted each of us to serve him, and that He has a plan and a calling for each one of us. I hope that you will be praying about this and listening for His response.

I'm 58 and I've been at this Christian thing for forty years now. And while I do foresee a time of vocational retirement, there doesn't seem to be any biblical mandate for spiritual retirement. So I hope that you’ll continue on this journey with me for many years to come. And I hope and pray that we will all hold one another accountable to keep walking the walk and living the life we are called to. Or as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." Let's all stay in the game and keep making a difference in this world where we were called to be both salt and light. Sometimes it's surprising to remember that God's secret weapon to change the world ... is actually us. So we cannot, we must not, shy away from that calling. 

If you're receiving this it's because I consider you a friend and I want to thank you for sharing your part of this journey with me. It's also my fondest hope that I've had some impact on your life as well. We're all works in progress, but it's so obvious to me how God has used the people in my life to bring blessing and help me become who I am today ... and I know he'll continue to do so. Thank you for being a part of God's work in me, and thank you for sharing my journey in some way so far. It has meant more than you could know. If you’re on this list, you are also on my radar to be challenged and encouraged, and held accountable. And I hope I’m on your radar as well because we’re all in this together. Whether we are seven or seventy-seven, God is not done with us yet. Absolutely not. In fact, he has a “next” agenda item for each of us, and I pray that each of us will be open to what that is. And whether we are around until next week or until we’re a hundred and twelve, I sincerely hope that we will keep living for God every day. That we will keep sharing about Jesus, and striving every day to hold open the door of heaven and invite everyone around us to share in a saving faith and an eternal life with our Lord. Let that be our over-arching purpose because in the end everything else is mere chaff.

I'm looking forward to another forty years of following Jesus and I plan to be "all in" until my last breath. Are you with me? Let me know if you are, and feel free to pass this on as well.

As iron sharpens iron,
     Frank / 949-812-1145 / @frankpoet

PS:  If you have received this and you don't believe in Jesus, or don't call yourself a Christian ... to you I just want to say that God loves you and He sent His son Jesus to bridge the gap between you and reconcile you to Him. God is real and available and He's waiting for you to respond to his invitation. And eternal hope is just one prayer away from you. If you’d like to talk about that subject I am always available. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Driving Around

This past weekend, in a very real sense, I had the opportunity to take a little drive down memory lane. There was a season thirty-five years ago when we sometimes had trouble getting our recently born son, Christopher, to fall asleep. As parents, you have to use all of the tools available and we realized pretty quickly that Chris was an outstanding car sleeper. So a few times a week we’d end up buckling his car seat into our 1984 Nissan Stanza and going for a drive around bedtime. For some reason, it became our custom to listen to George Winston’s December album while we drove … on a cassette tape, of course. And we even fell into a routine route that ended up at a park with a view of the lights on the bay. In time that sleep-stage passed, but we often think fondly of that season and the peace those quiet drives brought to our burgeoning family. And certainly George Winston music bring back memories as well.

Fast forward three and a half decades, and we had a dear friend and her baby staying with us this weekend. Her baby, Olivia Grace (same name as our granddaughter), was fighting sleep and when she dozed off in the car we decided to ride that wave and let sleeping babies lie, so to speak. I dropped Nancie off at the house and went for a drive. Feeling nostalgic, I put played some George Winston music to complete the experience. Of course, now it was a Pandora station instead of a cassette tape, but the effect was the same. So I took a few loops around the Back Bay Road and otherwise wandered aimlessly for a while. And I couldn’t help musing that it was now thirty-five years down the road, both literally and figuratively. And that thought made me happy.

Life has a way of circling around on us, and there is a certain comfort in embracing those cherished moments that you get to revisit. I was also reminded of the old fashioned joy of just going for a drive. Whether you have a baby in the back seat, or a loved one by your side, or just feel like spending some time alone, there’s nothing quite like taking a little drive to enjoy the scenery, and maybe some favorite some music as well. And if it helps the baby to sleep … all the better.

Take a drive. And here's a link to our official baby driving album:

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Lucky Day

Recently I found a sand dollar while I was snorkeling, which was kind of interesting because it was the first I had ever come across in the water. For fun, I texted a photo of it to my kids with the caption that I was one dollar richer. To that, my daughter replied that it must be my lucky day. And that got me thinking. The fact is that I actually feel lucky almost all the time, but I think that is more of an attitude or a choice that I make. So many folks seem overwhelmed by the issues in their lives. They worry and complain about what they don't have, which often indicates a lack of gratitude for what they do have. I could ramble on about this. Instead I'll just let today's poem speak for itself.

Have a lucky day!

Lucky Day
I found a sand dollar down at the beach
Someone said it was my lucky day
As I reflect comes the pleasant surprise
Just how often I feel that way
Perhaps I was born lucky, or so it feels
For mine could be called a charmed life
I live in a beautiful town by the sea
Blessed with amazing children and wife
I have all the things which matter most
Home, faith, family, work and friends 
Whatever I lack I can live without
So I thank God again and again
For this life I have the good fortune to live
Where so many good things come my way
This morning's reminder just reaffirms
That it's my lucky day ... every day!
                 By Frank Carpenter ©

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Monkeys in My Tree

I came across this ancient poem last night, written long ago when two of my nephews were climbing the tree in our front yard. That was nearly twenty-five years ago and now they are more like … well, gorillas. However, these dusty old words bring back that moment so vividly to my mind’s eye. We had so much family fun together when they were growing up. This poem also serves as a reminder of simpler times and youthful adventure. When was the last time I climbed a tree? Far too long ago. And now there are actually grandchildren playing in the trees around our house. Life seems to cycle like that, and perhaps the only thing that changes is me. Maybe we should climb some trees this weekend.

Monkeys in My Tree
Today, our game is climbing trees
A couple of monkeys and I
Just like a pair of chimpanzees
Under the blue May sky
How the branches quake and bend
As up the monkeys go
I wish that it should never end
As I watch from the grass below
What better on Saturday afternoon
Just as happy as you please
Alas, they grow up far too soon
Those monkeys in my trees
               By Frank Carpenter ©

Monday, September 03, 2018

Jon & Bradley

Just had a couples wedding shower for Jon & Bradley tonight. A wonderful evening of
fellowship, fun and community. Here is the blessing poem I wrote for them, and we wish them every happiness!

Jon & Bradley
Bradley and Jon, we're gathered today
With family and friends, both old and new
To celebrate your coming nuptial
And perhaps ... open a present of two
But mostly we want to welcome Bradley
Into this, our extended family
Of loved ones who have shared Jon's life
As the Weissberg's tribe and community
We've walked with them and prayed for Jon
All his life, each step of the way
And those prayers and hopes all culminate
In the wedding season we launch today
And as we look forward together
Towards the future that you will share
We ask God's blessing upon you
That you may walk in His tender care
That your love and faith and commitment
May be a bastion through trial and strife
And a beacon of hope to others
Through all the days of your life
May God grant you wisdom and patience
With rich harvests of happiness
And throughout the seasons which lie ahead
May your marriage and home be blessed
                     By Frank Carpenter ©

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Agree to Disagree

Let’s face it, we don’t all see eye to eye. But that’s OK. I wouldn’t want to live in a vanilla world where each of us thought exactly the same thing. And, in truth, we need each other’s opinions in order to evaluate and sharpen our own. Sometimes I’m dead wrong and can’t even see it. That’s when the insight of others is so helpful. It’s also true that we formulate many of our opinions and arguments based upon our own world views. I believe in a God. You might not. You come from a certain type of family or educational background. I have had different life experiences. Each of these things shapes our perspectives. And often we draw lines in the sand that divide relationships, cultures, and even nations. So there are many times, especially among people we care about, where we have to agree to disagree. When that happens, we can continue to have productive and provocative discussions across a broad range of subjects. I have strong opinions, but I also want to honor relationships. So this goes out to those whom I might not agree with, but whom I still love and respect. Let’s keep talking.

Agree to Disagree
Although we love each other
There are areas, it’s true
Where we don’t see quite eye to eye
And I must disagree with you
We’re entitled to opinions
So at least philosophically
We diverge on several issues
And so you disagree with me
But I like that we can talk about
Whatever’s on our hearts
And discuss a host of issues
That seem to tear some folks apart
I respect how you feel and
Think you do the same for me
We live somewhere in the middle
As we agree to disagree
So I say let’s keep talking
Let’s keep wrestling with things
So we can challenge one another
Embracing what perspective brings
Wisdom never flourishes
Within a vacuum, it is true
And I relish the exchanges
That I have with each of you
              By Frank Carpenter